Jim Mattis, current commander of Central Command, is one of the most revered generals in the recent history of the Marine Corps. He has been nicknamed affectionately “Mad Dog” and the “Warrior Monk,” and he has acquired a considerable and well-earned reputation for battlefield excellence and general strategic acumen over the course of the last decade in Afghanistan and Iraq and now at Centcom. The San Diego Union Tribune has a great profile of him.
Yet, although only 62 years old, his military career may well end in the next few months, because he is slated to leave Centcom. Veteran military correspondent Tom Ricks reports here and here that Mattis may be getting pushed out a bit early because the White House does not appreciate his blunt advice and thinks he is too hawkish on Iran.
Ask Marine Corps Cpl. Eric Hilton what it felt like to inhale fire, and he’ll say, “It was hot.” Ask him how Afghanistan was, and he’ll say, “I had a blast.” The 23-year-old Marine had stopped to buy cigarettes at a crowded bazaar in Kajaki, Afghanistan when he was hit by what he initially thought was a car. A few moments later he woke up on the ground.
“[The locals] can’t drive very well over there. They drive like idiots,” he told me. “I sat up, saw the blood on my leg, and I realized that’s not from a car accident.”
Eric had been hit by a suicide bomber in the middle of the teeming marketplace, only 10 days before the end of his seven-month deployment. The blast killed two other Marines and left 30 civilians dead or injured.
“We’re supposed to be coming home in ten days,” he said. “You don’t think anything’s going to happen to you.”