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Mattis discusses CENTCOM direction at town hall meeting

By Staff Sgt. Ryan O'Hare , U.S. Central Command

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Aug. 20, 2010 — MACDILL AFB, Fla. (Aug 19, 2010) - Marine Gen. James Mattis, the new commander of United States Central Command, hosted a town hall meeting at the base theatre here Aug. 18.

The forum was an opportunity for Mattis to formally introduce himself to CENTCOM personnel, as well as answer questions regarding his tenure as commander.

“There’s going to be a lot of changes with me coming here,” Mattis said as he began the hourlong event. “I’m going to try to share with you my high regard for this headquarters, some of my expectations, and some of my priorities here. I’m eager to hear what’s on your mind.”

Mattis began by educating the audience about his background and personal experiences with CENTCOM, including a few humorous anecdotes from his past. He also remarked on the direction in which the headquarters is heading, focusing on continuity, responsiveness, collaboration and process.

“We have a very good strategy, we have a sound policy in place, we have a civilian/military strategy, we have allies,” Mattis said. “ In some cases that have lost more troops per capita in Afghanistan than we have. It’s steady as she goes, and I need all of you to convey that message.”

Mattis drew his speech to a close, allowing ample time for questions from the audience.

Service members and contractors in the packed theatre were afforded the opportunity to ask Mattis any questions that concerned them.

Questions covered a myriad of topics, including religious influence in Afghanistan, effects-based operations, interagency cooperation, use of the Command Forward Headquarters, improvement of relationships with coalition partners, security in Iraq, the next  CENCTOM senior enlisted leader and even family issues.

One audience member asked Mattis to expound on the connection between family readiness and mission readiness.

“It is very, very difficult to have people attentive to their duties if things aren’t good on the home front,” Mattis said. “We know that this experiment, that you or I call America … it’s going to take people who are willing to endure danger and discomfort, so there is a respect that I have for every one of you, but it can’t be to the point that your family is falling apart in the rear … You can’t be focused on your duties if you’re worried about your family.”

As the town hall meeting drew to a close, Mattis thanked the audience for their time and service.

“I consider this a gift to be brought back here. I mean that. I’m humbled by it. I’ve commanded a whole lot of you and it’s just an honor and a privilege to come back,” Mattis said “I will give you my respect and my support. I expect that I have to earn yours. I will give this job a hundred percent, but please remember that what we’re doing is absolutely critical … Thanks very much, I look forward to working with you.”