My Share of the Task

My Share of the Task

A Memoir

Book - 2013
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General Stanley McChrystal, the commanding officer of all U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan, frankly explores the major episodes and controversies of his eventful career.
Publisher: New York : Portfolio, 2013
ISBN: 9781591844754
1591844754
Characteristics: xi, 452 p., [16] p. of plates : ill., maps, ports. ; 24 cm

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s
SEBoiko
May 10, 2013

The investigation could not substantiate any violations of Defense Department Standards and found that "not all of the events occurred as portrayed in the article."

s
SEBoiko
May 10, 2013

For a number of minutes I felt as though I'd likely awaken from what seemed, like a surreal dream, but the situation was real.

s
SEBoiko
May 10, 2013

% Regional wars -- not one fight.

s
SEBoiko
May 10, 2013

The better part of one's life consists of his friendships.

s
SEBoiko
May 10, 2013

hard recognized hard.

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mikemarotta
Apr 13, 2018

Unlike his operational handbook, "Team of Teams," this book is an autobiographical review of Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s tours of duty as the task force commander in Iraq and Afghanistan. As such, while the technical details provide hard-won lessons in leadership that are broadly applicable to any challenge a reader might confront, they are contrasted against what he does not say.

McChrystal writes well but the book is targeted to a military audience. For example, he uses the word “guidance” in the special sense that has nothing to do with missiles. When you receive your commander’s guidance, as the 2-star Maj. Gen. McChrystal did from his 4-star general Abizaid, you are being given expectations, limits, and measures of success. But it is all verbal, often just a chat. You are supposed to fill in the blanks and know what to do and what not to do. McChrystal never explains that. He just says that he received guidance, and the story continues from there.

The military is a small community. Captain Stanley McChrystal was deep in Georgia, Fort Stewart, 20 miles up a country road, when he met CPT Dave Petraeus. They would serve together again. In that span, like other senior staff officers McChrystal’s career took him down several different roads – airborne, Green Berets, mechanized infantry, Rangers—which he credits to giving him a broader view than he would have had if he had specialized and stayed in one command structure. In those different billets, he worked with other people he would meet again as he rose in rank.

As a major, attending the Army’s command and staff course was required. Usually, that means Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas. Instead, McChrystal was sent to the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island.

“Sited in scenic Narragansett Bay, the Naval War College was academically stimulating beyond anything I’d yet experienced. Unlike more structured programs with long class hours, the Navy emphasized extensive reading punctuated by limited but focused seminars. I’d always loved to read, and the instructors pushed me into the works of Clausewitz, Homer, and others that helped build a firmer foundation of knowledge.” McChrystal did not mention that at the same time he also completed a master’s degree in international relations at Salve Regina University. (He does say so in Team of Teams.) Several other generals also earned advanced degrees at Salve Regina.

Later, McChrystal has little to say about the death by friendly fire of Ranger Specialist Pat Tillman. Tillman's death grabbed media attention because of his religion, or lack of it. Tillman was openly an atheist, which is less popular than being openly gay. McChrystal was the special operations commander. He renders no final judgement, but only delivers a brief outline of the event. Even the unusual fact that Tillman received a posthumous Silver Star is delivered in one sentence with no personal observation.

The book dives deep into the creation and management of a joint force special operations directorate to retake Iraq from the insurgency. He turns Task Force 714 from a “tribe of teams” into the “team of teams” needed to win the battle for Fallujah. Adaptable, open, intelligent, TF 714 becomes the “Entrepreneurs of Battle” needed to overcome a decentralized, information-driven, fanatically dedicated adversary. Some of the fighters fought each other, Shiite against Sunni and Sunnis in reprisal, or different Shia militia vying for control. But that merely complicated the picture without changing it. The action here ends before the rise of ISIS.

r
rpavlacic
May 15, 2017

This may be the best military autobiography since "It Doesn't Take a Hero" by Norman Schwarzkopf (a book I also highly recommend). The author takes a panorama of his military career, from his troubled and nearly disastrous time at West Point to his leadership roles, primarily in the 82nd Airborne and the Rangers. The book also goes into the source of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, some grievances of which go back centuries; very useful in understanding why the wars in both became quagmires. One quibble I have is with how the writer formatted one very important event - the creation of Iraq out of the 1919 Versailles Conference, against the objections of three key groups in the area. He chose to write it as a five paragraph endnote, rather than include it in the main text - I think having done so would have made the conflict there much more understandable to those who simply skip the notes when finishing the book. Other than that, a truly amazing book by a fine man who deserves the accolades he received at the end of his career.

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