Military Life

Managing Expectations Around Mad Dog Mattis’ Appointment

By Elizabeth Peace

Retired Marine Gen. James N. Mattis would be the first to tell you his reputation is more myth than legend, according to at least one former Marine who worked closely with Mattis.

“This whole ‘Mad Dog’ thing is a real misnomer,” said Retired Lt. Col. Joe Plenzler. Plenzler worked as the public affairs officer for Mattis for a year in 2000 and again in 2002. “We worked pretty closely together, especially during the invasion of Iraq. That was a pretty significant event for the Marine Corps. His call sign was ‘CHAOS.’”

The call sign was actually a joke, Plenzler said; a joke Mattis earned as a colonel. CHAOS stood for “Colonel Has Another Outstanding Suggestion.”

Despite Mattis having what Plenzler described as an attitude of “a coach on a hockey team who, when it came time to skate, would lace up and be out there with the team,” that doesn’t stop the military community or America from using the famous moniker – and associating Mattis with the many quotes and memes that have been falsely linked to him.

Since being appointed as the 26th secretary of defense by President Trump, much of the military community and their family members have celebrated with anticipation of “making America great again.” That’s especially true in the Marine Corps.

“I think it’s more of having one of their own at the helm of the ship,” Plenzler said. “It’s really unusual. It’s been more than 50 years since a military officer was in charge of the Department of Defense, the department of war.”

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