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CENTCOM Gen. James Mattis to share experiences from war zone
General James Mattis

CENTCOM Gen. James Mattis to share experiences from war zone

General James Mattis will be in conversation with NPR's Mike Shuster tomorrow during a public talk at UCLA.

“We get to see inside into the thinking of a military leader, which we don’t often get. He is known for being action-oriented and honest, so he will say what he means.” ~Alexandra Lieben

By Jingxi Zhai for The Daily Bruin

The top commander of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq will be on campus Friday for a conversation that may shed light on how the wars have been handled by the United States military.

Gen. James Mattis, who succeeded Gen. David Petraeus in directly overseeing military operations in Middle Eastern countries, will have a sit-down conversation with Mike Shuster, National Public Radio News foreign affairs correspondent.

The one-hour event, hosted by the Burkle Center for International Relations, is “off-the-record,” which means no recording devices will be allowed and the event will be closed to the media.

It will take place in Korn Convocation Hall at the UCLA Anderson School of Management at 11 a.m. and is free and open to the public.

Reservations are full, but there will be a standby line prior to the event for additional seating.

“This (war) is part of our ongoing history,” said Alexandra Lieben, deputy director of the UCLA Burkle Center for International Relations. “(Mattis will) tell us about his strategy and experiences in this very critical area of our world.”

Mattis has been commander of U.S. Central Command since 2010 and has served in the Marines for nearly 40 years, including tours in Afghanistan in 2001 and in Iraq in 2003-2004. He commanded the 1st Marine Division that led the 2003 invasion into Iraq.

In July, Petraeus stepped down to take direct control of the war effort in Afghanistan.

Rebecca Kendall, director of communications at the Burkle Center, said this is an opportunity to understand the perspective of someone in a high-profile role since it is off-the-record.

Lieben said Mattis chose to do the off-the-record discussion because he wanted to be more frank and forthcoming about his experiences in the war zone with his audience.

“We get to see inside into the thinking of a military leader, which we don’t often get,” Lieben said. “He is known for being action-oriented and honest, so he will say what he means.”

Shuster was chosen as the interviewer because of his previous encounters with Mattis, Lieben said.

“Since they both know each other, it will give the conversation better flow,” she said.

The talk has been met with an impressive response ­– reservations were full by Nov. 8, which organizers said was not a surprise, given Mattis’ stature.

Lt. Col. Shawn Phelps, professor and chair of the Department of Military Science, said he hopes Mattis will provide insight for current cadets as well as civilians. He said that it is good professional development for cadets, as it helps prepare them if or when they deploy.

“I hope people will learn that there are no easy answers when it comes to fighting terror and rebuilding nations.”

Several of Phelps’ students and fellow faculty in the military science department are attending the talk, including Capt. Karensa Foxx, enrollment officer for the military science department.

Foxx was stationed in Afghanistan under Petraeus and said she wants to see how Mattis’ opinions and strategies differ.

“I hope young cadets will utilize this once-in-a-lifetime experience,” she said. “I never had an opportunity to speak to someone like this. Students can utilize his experiences when placed in a leadership position in the future.”

Lieben said she hopes that Mattis’ experience will clarify what actually happens in the war zone.

“People don’t talk about it enough, so we often forget that we fight wars,” she said. “It’s a better understanding of our world and our engagement in the region.”

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