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Retired Gen. and former Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, chuckles during a story he told at Little Hall on Marine Corps Base Quantico, Sept. 25, 2019. Mattis talks about how to improve leadership skills to the audience by making his message personal through bringing up stories about his Marine Corps career. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Piper A. Ballantine)

Photo by Lance Cpl. Piper Ballantine

Secretary Mattis’ book tour starts where he began at MCB Quantico

26 Sep 2019 | Lance Cpl. Paige Verry Marine Corps Base Quantico

One of the Marines most prolific leaders of modern times steps on stage at Little Hall, Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., Sept. 25, 2019.

The crowd rises and erupts in applause for this exceptional opportunity. Former Secretary of Defense, and Marine General, James Mattis, speaks in strong even tones to the packed hall about leadership.

His newly released book, and New York Times best seller, “Call Sign Chaos”, sold thousands of copies already and he signed approximately a thousand more to be purchased and go home with those, who attended the event on base.

“I come back here with a sense of humility,” Mattis said. “I feel nothing but pride for what you [Marines] stand for.

“I wrote this book to pass these ideas onto you.”

The secretary’s vast career, ranging from leadership positions in three wars to ultimately commanding half-a-million service members across the Middle East, is highlighted in the pages of his book. He speaks on three levels of leadership: direct, executive, and strategic. He further explained how the levels apply to Marines personally, as well as to the future of the Fleet Marine Force.

He also emphasized knowing your troops as well as you would your own brothers, a leadership philosophy articulated in his book.

“I had the opportunity to hear and write down a lot of motivational quotes from his lecture.” said U.S. Marine Cpl. Aarron Smith, who attended the event. “It was important for me to be there because I think every Marine should have the opportunity to listen to someone, who is as intelligent and well accomplished as Mattis.”

During a backstage interview, he stressed the importance of higher education, in all forms, for Marines, and how it can benefit their careers. Secretary Mattis recalls stressful decisions being made easier by applying the history and knowledge he absorbed from the Commandant’s Reading List, which is a list suggested reading for Marines at all ranks.

“You have to be doing the correspondence courses to prepare yourself for the next rank,” he said. “It’s important that you take the responsibility for your own development.”

Mattis also firmly believes that maintaining the mindset “every week in garrison may be your last week of peace.” This sentiment extends to the Marines in garrison and explains the importance of maintaining readiness.

The Secretary set aside about 30 minutes to answer pre-requested and open-floor questions. Questions ranging from his feeling on issues Modern Marines face to question about the civilian and military relationship.

When one Marine asked him why he chose to end his book the way he did, he responded by saying, “If we become hard on each other, we tear this country apart. Our society will only die by suicide. That is the real threat we face.

“The challenge for you young folk is to restore that sense of humanity. You are the most revolutionary generation in the world.”

While he spoke on the importance of warfighting and peace-making. He remains firm in believing warfighting is the more important of the two principles in the Corps and is what we provide to the peacemaking effort as a diplomatic tool.

“America cannot survive without compromise.” Secretary Mattis said. “You’ll never stay the same in this world. You will either get better, or you will get worse.

“Attitude is a weapon you need to keep sharp.”

Marine Corps Base Quantico