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My Share of the Task: A Memoir [Hardcover]

General Stanley McChrystal
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Jan. 8 2013
“Never shall I fail my comrades. . . . I will shoulder more than my share of the task, whatever it may be, one hundred percent and then some.” —from the Ranger Creed
 
In early March 2010, General Stanley McChrystal, the commanding officer of all U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan, walked with President Hamid Karzai through a small rural bazaar. As Afghan townspeo­ple crowded around them, a Taliban rocket loudly thudded into the ground some distance away. Karzai looked to McChrystal, who shrugged. The two leaders continued greeting the townspeople and listening to their views.
 
That trip was typical of McChrystal’s entire career, from his first day as a West Point plebe to his last day as a four-star general. The values he has come to be widely admired for were evident: a hunger to know the truth on the ground, the courage to find it, and the humility to listen to those around him. Even as a senior commander, McChrystal stationed him­self forward, and frequently went on patrols with his troops to experience their challenges firsthand.
 
In this illuminating memoir, McChrystal frankly explores the major episodes and controversies of his eventful career. He delves candidly into the intersection of history, leadership, and his own experience to produce a book of enduring value.
 
Joining the troubled post-Vietnam army as a young officer, McChrystal witnessed and participated in some of our military’s most difficult struggles. He describes the many outstanding leaders he served with and the handful of bad leaders he learned not to emulate. He paints a vivid portrait of the traditional military establishment that turned itself, in one gen­eration, into the adaptive, resilient force that would soon be tested in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the wider War on Terror.
 
McChrystal spent much of his early career in the world of special operations, at a time when these elite forces became increasingly effective—and necessary. He writes of a fight waged in the shadows by the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), which he led from 2003 to 2008. JSOC became one of our most effective counterterrorism weapons, facing off against Al Qaeda in Iraq.
 
Over time, JSOC gathered staggering amounts of intelligence in order to find and remove the most influential and dangerous terrorists, including the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. The hunt for Zarqawi drives some of the most grip­ping scenes in this book, as McChrystal’s team grappled with tricky interrogations, advanced but scarce technology, weeks of unbroken surveillance, and agonizing decisions.
 
McChrystal brought the same energy to the war in Afghanistan, where the challenges loomed even larger. His revealing account draws on his close relationships with Afghan leaders, giving readers a unique window into the war and the country.
 
Ultimately, My Share of the Task is about much more than war and peace, terrorism and counterin­surgency. As McChrystal writes, “More by luck than design, I’d been a part of some events, organizations, and efforts that will loom large in history, and more that will not. I saw selfless commitment, petty politics, unspeakable cruelty, and quiet courage in places and quantities that I’d never have imagined. But what I will remember most are the leaders.”


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Review

“General McChrystal is a legendary warrior with a fine eye for enduring lessons about leadership, courage, and consequence. He took me inside the command bunker, on nighttime raids, and through the fog of war, political and military. My Share of the Task is an important, riveting, and instructive account of the triumphs and trials of America’s two longest wars.”
—TOM BROKAW, author of The Greatest Generation
 
“Written in the tradition of Ulysses S. Grant, My Share of the Task is a clear, compelling, self-critical, and utterly unpretentious memoir. I know of no better book on the nature of modern military command.”
—JOHN LEWIS GADDIS, author of George F. Kennan: An American Life
 
“This is a brilliant book about leadership wrapped inside a fascinating personal narra­tive. By describing his own life, and especially his command in Afghanistan, General McChrystal helps us understand the modern missions of the military. More than that, he provides lessons about leadership and values that are indispensable in our daily lives. It’s a deeply inspiring tale.”
—WALTER ISAACSON, author of Steve Jobs and Benjamin Franklin
 
“Stanley McChrystal has written the finest military memoir of his generation. Lucid, thoughtful, and steeped in military and strategic history, My Share of the Task is not just the story of one man’s service; it is the story of the development of a new way of war. This book is not just for aficionados of military history or for students of American foreign policy; it’s for anyone who wants to understand the challenges of leadership in America today.”
—WALTER RUSSELL MEAD, author of Special Providence and God and Gold
 
“A remarkable memoir by one of the most exceptional and thoughtful leaders of his generation.”
—RORY STEWART, author of The Places in Between

About the Author

STANLEY McCHRYSTAL retired in July 2010 as a four-star general in the U.S. Army. His last assignment was as the commander of the International Security Assistance Force and as the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan. He had previously served as the direc­tor of the Joint Staff and as the commander of the Joint Special Operations Command. He is currently a senior fellow at Yale University’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs and the cofounder of the McChrystal Group, a leadership consulting firm. He and his wife of thirty-five years, Annie, live in Virginia.
 
Visit mcchrystalgroup.com/myshare


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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars A peek at the war March 30 2014
By Kevin D
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Good read, a great peek into operations and techniques used to filter through the mass of information they gathered in the war. Also another vantage point for the hunt of key players in the wars. Bum deal for McChrystal :(
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Lesson in Leadership March 2 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is an excellent volume. McChrystal gives an honest account of his life in the military and records in fine detail his involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. Given the circumstances of his resignation, it would not have been surprising to see him launch into a long defence of the incident in Paris that was so dramatically reported in Rolling Stone. However, he does not do this, preferring to let the record speak for itself and pointing out that a subsequent enquiry failed to substantiate the truth of the Rolling Stone article.

Being ex-military myself, I have long held that what used to be called "man-management", taught me more about managing people in civilian life than a hundred courses could do. General Stanley McChrystal's summary of leadership that he provides at the book's conclusion should be required reading for anyone in, or aspiring to be in, any position of authority.

It will be a revelation to many people to see just how much "management" is required in the prosecution of a counter-insurgency. The general, since leaving the military, has set up his own management consultancy. My feel is that any company availing itself of his services will benefit more than they could ever imagine.
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Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  245 reviews
169 of 178 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More of a leadership primer than a memoir Jan. 7 2013
By Jason C. Howk - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book is well researched and honestly portrays the trials General Stan McChrystal and his teams endured during his career. Full disclosure, I have known him for over 20 years and count him as an important mentor in my life, a comrade, and a friend. Three things jump out at me as important to Stanley McChrystal; loyalty, trust, and personal relationships. They are reminiscent of the ideals of Field Marshall W.J. Slim and General U.S. Grant.

My Share of the Task will be compared to both Grant and Slim in their prose and authenticity. It is well written and possibly one of the best military memoirs of our time. If I told you he was not a professional writer I would not be telling you the whole truth. He is. The one flaw in this book is that GEN Stan does not emphasize the lifelong lesson he learned about the importance of correspondence. I have read his words in operations orders, commander's guidance, personal letters, letters of recommendation, and letters to fallen service members family's. He is a gifted author and this story will grab your attention like a Bourne movie script at times.

Like Grant he avoids trying to cause injury to any person in his telling of history. He succeeds in being apolitical. Also like Grant there is a recognition that he cannot possibly mention all the great men and women he served in over his career especially during his decade of war. Instead he introduces us to a few people that can teach us about honor, warfare, friendship, courage, and peace.

Take a seat on the pain train and strap in. Learn about SARs, networks, partners, CT machines, reconciliation, maintaining humanity, operators, analysts, interrogators, TSFs, The Task Force, Counterinsurgency, advisors, and many other terms that will now be forever be required vocabulary for the military.

Its pages are not full of the word "I". Instead of lengthy sections about Gen McChrystal we are introduced to the real heroes he looked up to; a senior NCO in Iraq, a young paratrooper in hospital, and a rifle squad on Patrol in Afghanistan. He also takes time to describe some great leaders who left an indelible mark on warfare and the military but may never be heard of outside the military. People like General Gary Luck, LtGen Sir Graeme Lamb, and Command Sergeant Major Mike Hall loom large in his life and he ensures we understand why their style of leadership is most often the best. It strikes me less as a memoir and more as a chance to publicly honor the men and women who quietly and efficiently worked under his command.

Like Grant he mentions in passing his senate confirmations for promotion and meetings with the Presidents to spend the majority of his text focused on larger decision-making events or small but important moments spent with troops. This shows his desire to focus on events that can most effect the tide of battle. Also like Slim he shows that he understands that campaigns are won and lost by the caliber of the people in the Armies not just the leader leading it. He knows that he owes all his success to the success of his people.

This fills a gap in the current literature about the events since September 11th because of his unique duty positions and experiences. One of the few officers to serve repeatedly in both Afghanistan and Iraq as he progressed from BG to GEN. He was deployed to combat zones for the majority of the time from 2002 through 2010.

He explores the lessons he kept in his rucksack as he moved from command to command. Trust subordinates. Surround yourself with the best people and let them go. Be demanding but be patient and listen to your subordinate's gut feelings and subject matter expert's decisions about what to do next. Let subordinates tell you you are wrong and explain why they are right. Honor friendships. Trust makes units efficient. Everyone can be a strategist regardless of rank. Delegate authority until you are uncomfortable and then delegate some more.

It's not all about the operators kicking in doors and snatching the enemy out of his room in the middle of the night. He takes the time to honor all the people who make up exceptional units. The wise supply sergeants, the dedicated adjutant, the interrogators, the intel analysts, the sergeants majors, and the squad leaders.

He has a humble sense of where he fit into these wars historically. He doesn't see himself as a miracle worker just a man that accepts a task and gives one hundred percent to accomplish it and demands 100 percent from his teammates. To work at such a high optempo he relies on a strong wife, a love for Soldiers, and a deep belief in the sanctity of human life.

Like President Lincoln his leadership style worked by making his men feel it was an honor to serve with him. He never minded accepting another's way of doing things if it meant they would relish accomplishing the task their way. People never wanted to fail GEN Stan because it made them feel wretched as if they had disappointed their father or grandfather.

Its not a book that glorifies his legendary status in the spec ops community, instead it highlights why when he put the call out for a few friends to join him for Afghanistan dozens showed up at the pentagon within days. With no idea of their future jobs and no specified length for their future combat tours his trusted comrades quit their jobs and left their families to join the band and go back out on tour.
54 of 61 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting read about a General "who gets it!" Jan. 8 2013
By Joey Lowe - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I purchased the Kindle version a couple of days ago but didn't get a chance to dig into it until last night. Unfortunately for me, I couldn't put it away and I ended up staying up until the wee hours of the morning reading and re-reading portions of the book. General McChrystal gets it and knows how to communicate it. The way he weaved his story clearly demonstrates that he knows how to get the word out without getting lost in meaningless details.

If you are looking for an accurate accounting of the military's worldly involvement for the past 30 years, this is a MUST read. If you want to know more about what motivates a man to become one of the best leaders the US Military has ever known, this is a MUST read. If you are looking to see if he is using this book as a platform for a second career, you might want to pass because it's not there. General McChrystal has done an excellent job of communicating his contributions to freedom and I surmise that his prose is a direct reflection of who he is: a no-nonsense General officer that knew how to get the job done.

Thank you for sharing sir! The only question I have concerns his tours at Fort Stewart. It seems that he and I chewed some of the same ground at the same time. I was in the Marines and it was common practice for the Rangers and the Marines to "mingle" off base. Semper Fi!
52 of 60 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting But Flawed Jan. 19 2013
By RTM - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I found this book worth reading, with both distinct strengths and flaws.
Some Strengths:
1) Describes this General's admirable approach to leadership, and his efforts to carry this out in difficult circumstances. McChrystal tries to implement "The Mission, The Men, and Me" approach described by (former Delta Force commander) Pete Blaber in his fine book.
2) Gives the detailed "inside story" of how the key terrorist Zarqawi was tracked and killed, showing how difficult this task actually was.
3) Demonstrates the success of McChrystal's efforts to break down US bureaucratic and organizational boundaries to fight terrorist networks in Iraq and Afghanistan. McChrystal was able to get competing US Gov't agencies, as well as different parts of the US military, to actually share information and cooperate.
4) Provides many, many examples of the dedication of (and sacrifices made) by US military personnel who tried to make the best of what was often an overwheming situation.
Some Flaws:
1) McChrystal seems very reluctant to criticize anyone involved with the Allied forces. Perhaps this is understandable, but why not address the mistakes made during the initial occupation of Iraq, as well as the undersourced war in Afghanistan?
2) McChrystal also seems reluctant to address what some observers view as a failed strategy in Afghanistan, and is overly optimistic about the situation there. I just finished reading "The Outpost" by Jake Tapper, which dramatically shows the consequences of poor strategy and decision-making by the higher command, including McChrystal.
3) The US civilian leadership, including both Presidents Bush and Obama, seem to get a free pass from McChrystal, despite evidence of indecision, mistakes, and confusion (at least that's my conclusion based on reading other books, such as those by Bob Woodward.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Leadership 101 Feb. 10 2013
By David J. Wallace - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I rated the book four stars based on the lack of information on the Rolling Stone article that led to his resignation. I guess I was looking for more about that article and General McChrystal's comments dealing specifically with the inaccuracies and lies from that article. Other than that, I thought it was an excellent read.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Will the real Stan McChrystal stand up? Feb. 3 2013
By Tribe fan - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Just finished this remarkable book. Not sure what I think exactly, but my initial reactions are:

McChrystal can write. The book was two years in the making and although McChrystal did the bulk of the writing he had considerable help and virtually a co-author in Sam Ayers. As McChrystal himself notes the book is very carefully crafted. I think the term `crafted' is an excellent descriptor.

McChrystal is well read, but his reading is somewhat calculated to his own ends and limited. He is deeply read, if not widely read. He is fond of Hobbes, Coleridge, Fall, Karnow, Homer, Huntington, Kipling and even Michener but somehow he seems to have missed people like Thomas Barfield who wrote a remarkable history of Afghanistan.

The book is essentially in four parts: his time at West Point, his time as a ranger and progression in the Army, Iraq and TF 714 and finally Afghanistan.

We follow his career as the military goes through considerable change from postwar Vietnam and becomes what it is today. His detail of the fighting in Iraq and the concerted efforts to get AQI terrorists especially Zarqawi is exceptional. He takes great pains to detail the efforts of men and women from not only the US Army, but other agencies to get the pieces and put them together. He also takes pains to make sure that the readers know that he acknowledged these people.

The last section on Afghanistan is the most problematic. It is not problematic because McChrystal does not provide the reader with good detail it is problematic because the picture he paints is of a fight or fights we should not be in and in which we cannot possibly prevail. I'm not sure that was his intention, but that is what happens if you read the book carefully. The real problems start when he talks President Karzai into visiting areas in the outlands of Afghanistan. It starts in Marjah when Karzai is faced with blunt questions about Karzai appointed governor Sher Mohammed Akhundzaha and his hit man Abdul Rahman Jan who was clearly more hated than the Taliban. "We do not like the Taliban, but Abdul Rahman Jan and his police gangs are intolerable. They steal from us and rape our children." Karzai, deftly handles the situation, but nothing gets changed. Similar discussions occur in Kandahar. Again nothing changes. McChrystal is fond of referring to the "Afghan state" but his descriptions of Afghanistan outside of Kabul do not indicate anything like a state.

Finally, just before then end, McChrystal goes out on patrol in response to an email he gets from a SSGT Arroyo. Well, he doesn't just go out, he goes out the day after he gets the email. "After a short brief we went on a combat patrol. Departing on foot for several hours, sweeping the area until we reached a small Afghan village, then returned. As we moved, I listened to the young leader's thoughts and got to know members of his squad, in particular one of his team leaders, Mike Ingram ...." Okay, `m not denying that McChrystal did this, but assuming it is true he is the only four star in human history that would have done this. Again, I'm not saying he didn't, but this is an incredibly self-serving story.

So, who is Stan McChrystal, a super warrior who never misses a day running, who sleeps only four hours and quotes Hobbes and Bernard Fall? (Did I mention he also picked Stanley Karnow's brain?) A man who reads emails from a hundred thousand or so soldiers? And, oh yeah, he took personal charge of showing Karzai how to be a Commander in Chief.

Okay, here is my problem in a nutshell. I believe Stan McChrystal is super human or an extraordinary human in many respects. But, after I read this I went back and reread the Rolling Stone article "Runaway General." But, the Rolling Stone article still rings true and despite McChrystal's carefully `crafted' recounting of his time in Afghanistan I still think the Rolling Stone piece has a ring of truth. I spent 27 years in the AF, my son got back from Afghanistan about two months ago. In the end I think my son's response to my query "How was it?" when he said "Think 1950s mafia in the States, Dad" is not that different from McChrystal's assessment.

Now, will the real Stan McChrystal stand up and can he answer one question. "Is there any reason that we should be or should have been in Afghanistan at all?" Okay, that wasn't what he was sent there to answer, but his book convinces me that it has been a terrible waste.
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