My Share of the Task

My Share of the Task

A Memoir

Book - 2012
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"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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Publisher: New York : Portfolio, 2012.
ISBN: 9781591844754
Characteristics: xi, 452 p., [14] p. of plates : ill. (some col.), ports. (some col.) ; 24 cm.

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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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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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bookerfree
Jan 31, 2017

Good, well written account of McChrysal's life and primarily his own own experience as a soldier and Commander of 75th Rangers and later JSOC in Iraq/Afganistan. A lot of attention is given to commanding special forces in Iraq, and developing a viable intelligence/strike tactical response to the terrorist stranglehold by Zarqawi, et al. A farsighted leader, he was highly regarded by most - the troops he commanded as well as others he worked with, both military and civilian. Cross-referencing other accounts (Task Force Black, (Mark Owen) Relentless Strike, (Sean Naylor) The Field of Fight (Michael Flynn) The Terror Years (Lawrence Wright), backs this positive appraisal. McChrystal presents an honest in-person account of successes and failures during trying times, and anyone interested in details of what actually transpired at this level in Iraq from 2003 to 2009 should read this book.

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