"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.
Non Fiction Reader
In many ways I found the narritive disconcerting. I thought back to the days when "victory" was the logical end of war, e.g. Grant, Patton, Eisenhower. McCrystal's story belies his belief, while at West Point, that he would be a fighting soldier. He skirts over his junior, company and field commander experiences by listing the future soldiers he will again serve with. As his career moves ever upward he finds himself more enmeshed and ensnared by the wishes of his politcal overseers. It must be frustrating to see the "light toward military victory" as only a military man can see his or her duty to be reined in by political expediency and a hostile press.
McCrystal does not advocate doing away with civilian control but it is evident it impedes outcomes to the degree that military operations are never successfully concluded. The lesson I got from this book is that if you're a general, on down to the level of private, that you have continually to look over your shoulder. This is especially true when so many in political authority, including the Commander in Chief, are more concerned of how they will appear on the evening news cycle, when so many political leaders have never served a day in the military, and when they feel more accountable to domestic interest groups then to the men and women who have to fight and die for their country.
I was disappointed in his telling of the Rolling Stone article. It's passed over in a paragraph with the appropriate mea culpas.The other disappointment is McCrystal continually resorts to defining a good military leader's qualities and concludes that his description fits him. I have no doubt that he is a well qualified military leader but this device seems to be self-serving.
Soo Lee Davis
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 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.
Understanding our Involument
Unique , General Stanley McChrystal has personalized the 3 wars that we are presently involed. We see how from a young boy his destiny was to be person in charge.His desired to have open and transparent communication was his biggest asset.
The inflection of his voice and timing adds to the excitment and drama of the story
NO, much of what is presented must be thought about ,reflected on, so you understand the General's involement.
With our present administration's foreign policy, this book explains the questions of why. I don't feel this soldier was listen to by our administration . The culture, prior events,and tribes of the area, General Stanley McChrystal's account is current and honest- A rare attribute today.
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.
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