Big Government: At a remote military base in Jordan earlier this month, U.S. Marines were abuzz with excitement — Defense Secretary Jim Mattis was in town.
He would not be visiting Camp Titin, where they were training Jordanian forces — but he would be nearby at an international terrorism conference in Aqaba, Jordan, and for these Marines, that was close enough.
One recalled being deployed in Afghanistan years ago, and how Mattis, then-commander of U.S. Central Command, had been just feet away from him, delivering a pep talk.
“Ask him if he has coins,” he said, referring to the challenge coins that commanders and senior defense leaders carry to hand out to troops as a small token of gratitude. “They’re probably blocks of granite!” he joked, a nod to Mattis’s reputation for toughness.
“Tell him his Marines love him,” he added.
When that message was relayed to Mattis by this reporter, the defense secretary smiled and said he didn’t have coins.
“I’m saving money for bombs,” he replied.
The story encapsulates how Mattis has approached his first year as Defense Secretary: laser-focused on combat-effectiveness, fiscal responsibility, and maintaining a low-profile.
“Mattis sees his job as carrying out the president’s military priorities and that’s it. He doesn’t see his job as making policy or ‘fixing’ President Trump’s agenda,” said Rebeccah L. Heinrichs, senior fellow at the Hudson Institute. read more