A legend has landed: Defense Secretary Mattis arrives in Alaska

(General Mattis and Sen. Sullivan at Eielson AFB)

Secretary of Defense James Mattis is in Alaska tonight, having arrived with Sen. Dan Sullivan to tour some of America’s most strategic defense sites, such as Eielson Air Force Base, Joint Alaska Pacific Range Complex (JPARC), and Fort Greely, where the country’s top missile defense system is located.

JPARC is one of the world’s largest training complexes, with some 65,000 square miles of air space.

The Associated Press was the first to leak Mattis’ visit, but earlier this summer, Sullivan said he was working on getting Mattis to the state this year. It comes during a planned trip to Asia, but appears to be much more than a refueling stop, as there are meetings planned through Monday.

This is the Defense secretary’s first trip to Alaska in his current role as the nation’s chief executive of the Department of Defense, with authority over the U.S. military that is second only to that of the President and Congress.

Mattis’ visit came out of a direct request by Sen. Sullivan to give the general an opportunity to see firsthand Alaska’s military infrastructure, particularly in the Interior. Sullivan is also a Marine.

Mattis is a military icon and arguably the most famous living Marine, who is sometimes called “Mad Dog Mattis,” or “the Warrior Monk.” He is a wealth of military knowledge, having devoted his entire career to the U.S. Marines and he has one of the largest personal libraries of an active-duty military officer ever known in the modern world.

One of his often-quoted sayings is, “Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet.”

[Read Foreign Policy Magazine: Sec. of Defense Mattis discusses his favorite books, and why]

The decimation of the Islamic State, a terror group known as ISIS, is one of his most noted accomplishments in his short tenure as Defense Secretary. Just two years after Trump became president, Isis controls no territory. “While Iraq has liberated all of its territory once captured and held by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, the U.S.-led military campaign against the rogue organization continues in Syria,” Mattis said at a meeting of the defeat-ISIS coalition at NATO headquarters in Brussels earlier this month, where he gave all the credit to Iraq. But, in fact, his ordering of airstrikes on ISIS refueling operations has broken up terror operations throughout the Middle East, and disincentivized young men from signing on as truck drivers for ISIS.

After doing a familiarization visit to Alaska military bases with Sullivan, Mattis will be on his way to Asia, where he plans high-level talks with the Chinese. Topics will include the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, including China’s role in the mission.