General Mattis is widely known within the U.S. military as the most revered Marine Corps officer in a generation. With a reputation for candor, a career of combat achievements, and a library that once spanned 7,000 books, Gen. Mattis has a record of over 41 years of public service. Modern military historians chronicle him as one of America’s great soldier-scholars. In March 2013, he ended his service as the eleventh commander of U.S. Central Command, where he was responsible for U.S. military activities in one of the world’s most volatile regions, including Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.
Commissioned a second lieutenant in 1972, Mattis has commanded at every level in the Marine Corps. As a lieutenant colonel, he commanded 1st Battalion, 7th Marines during the first Gulf War. As a brigadier general, he commanded Task Force 58, which, shortly after 9/11 conducted an amphibious assault to seize the airfield at Kandahar, Afghanistan. During the invasion of Iraq, Major General Mattis commanded the 1st Marine Division on the “march up” to Baghdad. Before his posting to USCENTCOM, Gen. Mattis commanded U.S. Joint Forces Command, becoming one of only a few general officers to hold two four-star billets.
Previous recipients of the Benjamin Franklin Award include Henry A. Kissinger, Robert D. Kaplan, Walter Russell Mead, Fouad Ajami, Niall Ferguson, Charles Krauthammer, John R. Bolton, and Philip Zelikow.