Most people know James Mattis as the “Mad Dog,” a sobriquet he acquired from his troops after the Battle of Fallujah. However, the secretary of defense has another call sign you might not know about, and the reasons behind it are beyond awesome.
According to the Marine Times, Mattis’ actual call sign was “Chaos.” That sounds a bit like a low-level comic book supervillain, but there’s actually a hilarious story — and acronym — behind it.
“It’s probably because, you know, the great Chinese classical warfare strategist, Sun Tzu. You copied him or something like that,” Mattis said sarcastically during a speech Wednesday at the Air Force Association Air, Space and Cyber conference. “I’d love to tell you it was for a dignified reason like that.”
However, it all happened while Mattis was still a colonel, and regimental commander out in Twentynine Palms Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in California. Mattis noted that in Twentynine Palms, “there’s nothing to do but go blow up the desert.”
(As an aside: Speaking as someone who’s been out in Twentynine Palms once for a desert wedding, I can vouch for Mattis’s words — although, judging by the number of bail bonds establishments in the vicinity the base, some of our more restless men and women in uniform were definitely finding something to do.)
Mattis says that as he was leaving his office one day, he noticed the word “Chaos” scrawled on the operations officer’s whiteboard.
“I said, ‘What’s this about?’” Mattis said. “I’m curious, you know. We all are. He says, ‘oh you don’t need to know that.’”
So, of course, Mattis decided he definitely needed to know that. He eventually got an answer: “Finally, he kinda said, ‘Well it means the Colonel Has An Outstanding Solution,’ and it was very much tongue-in-cheek, ladies and gentlemen. They didn’t consider all my solutions quite as outstanding as I enthusiastically promoted them.”
So, Mattis took “CHAOS” as his call sign. And, as for his better-known appellation? “There was never a ‘Mad Dog’ in there,” the secretary of defense told the audience, “other than some press person who needed a little bit of a fantasy life fulfilled I think.”
Shame, really — although “Chaos” (and the story behind it) is still pretty epic. After all, this is someone who created chaos for America’s enemies, both on the battlefield and now in the Pentagon.
The call sign may have been given to him ironically, but it would be difficult to deny its accuracy.
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H/T Task and Purpose