"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."
©2013 Stanley A. McChrystal (P)2013 Penguin Audio
While the entire book was excellent - the Audible version ends before the concluding chapter (the Rolling Stone Article,etc.) and the entire epilogue is missing from this unabridged version.
In 1996, I read Norman Schwarzkopf's autobiography, It Doesn't Take a Hero, and it played a major part in my decision to attend West Point. General McChrystal's book is sure to have a similar impact on a generation of future officers.
While my opinion may be biased as I could recall many of the experiences and locations that are discussed, this story is a true page-turner, despite knowing how it turns out. McChrystal does a good job of explaining complex military relationships and terms that make the book understandable. The narrator correctly pronounces many challenging names and adds a good deal to the already-entertaining work.
My only negative comment would be the ending. I won't spoil, but would only say that I was hoping for more. As a true professional, General McChrystal has obviously left any juicy gossip for others to pontificate on.
Do yourself a favor and listen to this amazing piece of American military history as told from the inside.
As an Afghan war veteran, stationed in RC East when missions like Barge Matal was executed, in addition to the loss of COP Keating, I greatly appreciated the reader's obvious study of the correct pronunciation of all the locations. I found that Gen McChrystal's account filled in the gaps and explained in detail all of the missing details. I have great appreciation for one of our nation's heroes. I highly recommend this book for any future leader or historian wanting an accurate account of both the Iraq and Afghan wars with the perspective that only the commander could offer.
Gen McCrystal was a goof ball his first couple of years at West Point and he tells some hilarious stories about this. This is a long book that covers many, many years. He gives the most attention to Afghanistan and Iraq, as I was hoping. The General is a driven work-a-holic (4hrs sleep a night, eats one meal a day, runs 7+ miles a day). He just missed Vietnam and didn't see combat until much later in his career. As intense as he is, he is very gracious to others he talks about in the book. This is largely the story of the special ops in O.E.F. and O.I.F. from the view of the man in charge. The reader is absolutely the best reader of any book I have listened to. I thought I was listening to Gen McCrystal himself. He speaks directly about the death of Ranger Pat Tillman. Finally, he deals head-on with the Rolling Stone magazine reporter and story that cost him his job. Very enjoyable.
This is the work of a dedicated officer and tells what it can about special operations at work in today's conflicts, especially dealing with Al Qaeda and similar elements.
The author narrates competently, and you get a feel for the man, a career officer starting with West Point and growing up on Army bases. He is a highly motivated officer, and that comes across in the book and his reading.
The standout aspect for me was the role of intelligence, especially two particulars. One was gathering intelligence while conducting an op, say at four in the afternoon. The team would collect intelligence (paper, computers, thumb drives, cell phones, etc,), get info from it, then launch another raid exploiting that info, do the same there, and make another raid the same day, all exploiting new intelligence harvested at each op.
The other standout was interrogation, the people involved, and the personal qualities that worked. McC agrees with McCain that torture is counterproductive.
A major limitation is that there's a lot that isn't told because it's classified. McC also goes out of his way not to criticize fellow officers. That's a weakness in that it's generally agreed that in the Brenner era in Iraq we didn't do very well because of poor leadership. When McC gives us one sentence on Sanchez, he doesn't do the subject justice.
I enjoyed this as a honest account of a career in a field I find interesting. Not all readers would, but for those of us interested in the subject, it's worthwhile.
While the public only heard of his last 2 years, his story of the Special Operations Forces is a rare, unclassified story…. a unique man I met twice, I enjoyed his thorough autobiography.
Yes - fundamental leadership lessons; excellent description of contemporary military operating environment.
In Service to Our Nation
Narrator could have been better.
Say something about yourself!
Per the title of this review, the book is a mix of recent history and leadership lessons. I was surprised at how drawn into the book I became from the very beginning. It's great to get the perspective of one of our most respected Generals. Like a soldier diplomat, very carefully presents his version of every story in a way that the reader can empathize with. It's a long book, but well worth it.
Seemed similar to the book Art of Intelligence by Henry Crumpton because of the format and topics but from slightly different perspectives.
This was a very good story, which restores my confidence that we have some great individuals that are still willing to serve in the military. The read was also done in a way to keep your interest all the way through. I recommend it to everyone.
This book was amazing. I bought this book thinking I was getting a leadership lesson, what I got was so much more. A history lesson and the best example of commitment to his country. I wish this was required reading for all the members of the House and Senate. The loss of this mans leadership in our military is a crime. Shame on the politicians who are so short sighted that they can't get over themselves. My true admiration is for Annie, his wife. Her love and support kept him going for all of his tours and career. I will listen again!
I bought this book expecting half expecting it to be full of US military exaggeration however, I was very pleasantly surprised. This is a humbling account from an inspirational leader who provides an articulate and thoughtful version of his time in Afghanistan as well as allowing us a window into his personal life.
I took this book as a chance thinking it'll either be annoying USA saves the world or much more interesting. It turned out to be a very good book by Stanley McChrystal on his military career but with a particular focus on his tie as a senior US commander in both Iraq and Afghanistan. A detailed and informative description of the key players involved, decisions made, leadership, and goals and aims of the jihadist opponents. The author does not try to diminish the mistakes made by the coalition but explains how the mistakes were made and how to avoid them in the future. Overall a very good book about key events of our time.
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