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."
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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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."

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.

May 10, 2013

% Regional wars -- not one fight.

May 10, 2013

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

May 10, 2013

hard recognized hard.


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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.

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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