26th U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis Receives the 2022 Sentinel of the Sea Award

Nov 9, 2022

CAPT George E. Lang, Jr. USN (Ret.), CEO of the Naval War College Foundation; Philip M. Bilden, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Naval War College Foundation; General James N. Mattis, USMC (Ret.), 26th U.S. Secretary of Defense; RADM Shoshana S. Chatfield, USN, President of the U.S. Naval War College. Photo courtesy of Hechler Photography.

NEWPORT R.I. — General James Mattis (Ret.), the 26th U.S. Secretary of Defense, received the Naval War College Foundation’s Sentinel of the Sea Award, in recognition of his meritorious conduct, self-sacrifice, vigilance, and dedicated service to the Nation. The award was presented by Naval War College Foundation Chairman Philip M. Bilden on Friday, November 4 at the New York Yacht Club in New York, NY.

The Sentinel of the Sea Award is the highest honor presented by the Naval War College Foundation to distinguished American citizens representing the traditions and values of the U.S. Naval War College. Awardees have demonstrated a sustained commitment to maintaining our Nation’s security, liberty, and strength. “Over his distinguished career of military and public service spanning five decades, General Mattis has embodied the highest values of service to the Nation,” said Philip Bilden in his remarks. “Known for his humility, humor, honor, inspiring leadership, and selfless dedication to his Sailors and Marines, Jim Mattis remains one of the most revered and respected leaders in the history of the U.S. Marine Corps.”

In his acceptance speech, Mattis’ humility was on display as he recognized military service members and their families for their sacrifices. “I’m an average Marine, and I have pretty high regard for the average Marine and Sailor. They’re wonderful,” Mattis commented as he began his remarks. ”I’m singled out largely thanks to the blood and sweat of more junior Sailors and Marines, and the tears of the Gold Star families.” 

General Mattis enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps at the age of 18. In southern Afghanistan, he led the First Marine Expeditionary Brigade and Naval Task Force 58 in operations against the Taliban. During the initial attack and then stability operations in Iraq, he commanded the First Marine Division. From 2007 to 2010, Mattis concurrently served as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) Supreme Allied Commander Transformation and Commander of the United States Joint Forces Command. Prior to his retirement in 2013, he served as Commander of the U.S. Central Command, responsible for U.S. and allied forces across the Middle East. Following his military retirement, Mattis helped President Donald J. Trump to shape his national defense policy as the 26th Secretary of Defense. He later accepted an appointment as the Davies Family Distinguished Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. 

During his acceptance speech, Mattis also commended the audience for their support of the U.S. Naval War College. “Newport, Rhode Island is the home of the U.S. Naval War College, and in our leadership role, the leading War College in all the free world.” Mattis continued, “It belongs and is accountable to the American people for providing us security, and as such, it is connected to each of us who care deeply about the Republic for which we stand. I salute all of you for who you are, for what you do, and especially for what you represent for our country.”

General James N. Mattis, USMC (Ret.), 26th U.S. Secretary of Defense, gives acceptance remarks at the Sentinel of the Sea Award gala. Photo courtesy of Hechler Photographers.

The U.S. Naval War College provides educational experiences and learning opportunities that develop students’ ability to anticipate and prepare strategically for the future, strengthen the foundations of peace, and create a decisive warfighting advantage.The College has graduated more than 75,000 students since its founding in 1884, and welcomes more than 500 senior and intermediate-level students from the U.S. military, government service, and international sea services to campus each year. Thousands of additional students advance their scholarship, professional knowledge, and research through the College’s distance education programs. When speaking about General Mattis, Rear Admiral Shoshana Chatfield, President of the College, recounted a visit with this year’s incoming resident students. She asked the students if they had served in Iraq or Afghanistan, and many raised their hands. “I am sure that if I asked them today how many were inspired by your leadership and drive, how many looked to you as a model of what a military professional should strive to become, they would all raise their hands,” Chatfield remarked. “You have demonstrated that your legacy of leadership and service can long outlast the time since you handed over the watch.”

General Mattis joined ranks with previous Sentinel of the Sea recipients for their dutiful service: Secretaries of the Navy, the Honorable Paul R. Ignatius and Ambassador J. William Middendorf, II; veteran advocates Gary Sinise and Tom Brokaw; Medal of Honor Recipients Chief Warrant Officer Four Hershel “Woody” Williams, USMC (Ret.), Staff Sergeant Hiroshi “Hershey” Miyamura, USA (Ret.), First Sergeant Allen J. Lynch, USA (Ret.), Staff Sergeant David G. Bellavia, USA, and Lieutenant Michael P. Murphy, USN (posthumously); ADM James “Jim” Hogg, USN (Ret.); and GEN Michael V. Hayden, USAF (Ret.).


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