172 of 181 people found the following review helpful
More of a leadership primer than a memoir,
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This review is from: My Share of the Task: A Memoir (Hardcover)
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.
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Showing 1-10 of 12 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jan 8, 2013 9:10:23 AM PST
Ed Morgan says:
Sounds like some other reviewers had issues with lack of personality part of memoir; your response?
Posted on Jan 8, 2013 12:45:34 PM PST
prairie woman says:
I watched an interview with General McChrystal on Hannity last night and I was impressed with how well spoken, articulate, and inspiring he was. He talked about his experiences in the past and people that he remembered and made impressions on him. I definitely want to read the book. Your review was good.
In reply to an earlier post on Jan 10, 2013 5:51:44 PM PST
the blaz says:
I agree. It sounds like military wife had a negative opinion before reading the book. If she was looking for a lot of "Is" in the book they were not there.
Posted on Jan 12, 2013 11:56:28 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 12, 2013 11:59:05 AM PST
Sassy Barbara says:
I saw the interview he did with Sean Hannity and was struck by the greatness of this man. Anyone who recognized his qualities, would NEVER accept his resignation based on the FACT that he was ESSENTIAL PERSONNEL. His resignation was a loss to the country at a time when men of wisdom, character and courage are very much needed. This will certainly be recognized by historians.
In reply to an earlier post on Jan 14, 2013 8:28:26 AM PST
Excellent observation and very well written. I had the same impressions and think Obama made a terrible mistake by letting a reporter unduly influence him in a very important decision. I have never had much confidence in Obama because he has no "real world" experience and that leads to incompetent decisions such as this.
Posted on Jan 14, 2013 7:49:49 PM PST
Cynthia Burkey says:
I'm curious as to whether General McChrystal addresses 9/11 in this book...I will certainly buy it, because it's an important and timely document.
In reply to an earlier post on Jan 15, 2013 8:43:19 AM PST
prairie woman says:
I think it's unfortunate that General McChrystal gave the interview to Rolling Stone in the first place. And remember the MSM is very protective of this president.
Posted on Jan 16, 2013 9:57:37 AM PST
Tribe fan says:
I like your review ... it has the ring of truth to this old retired military guy
Posted on Jan 17, 2013 5:21:59 PM PST
Ernest F. Loomis says:
As another old soldier, I have found "My share of the Task" to be an outstanding effort that explains the intricasy of the demands and lonliness of command intertwined in the life story of an outstanding warrior. It gives the opportunity for all, even when no military experience exists, to understand what leadership really means, and it's importance in convincing large numbers of individuals, to perform their "share of the task" in reaching the common goal. I find it an honest assessment of our National objectives, the U.S. Army's means to achieve it, and the Commanders ability to lead it, without making it "all about me".
It also provides details of the elimination of al-zaqawi, and Sadaam Hussein and his sons, as well as a host of other enemy leaders, heretofor unknown, that carefully stay within bounds, while making the tactics and results much clearer.
It allowed the General to emerge from the shadowy mists of the special operations world, and allow readers from outside the military to see his profound depth of passion, recounted in his sensitive handleing of the disaster at the airplane crash on Pope AF Base, when so many of his young paratroopers were killed and injured. His leadership principles shined brightly that day and the months to follow, and then he rose even above that when he recognized that it was better for the surviving tropps to not step away from their almost immediate turn as with the Division Ready Brigade, even while horribly short-handed, than to stand down and place the additional burden on others.
The General produced an honest, straight forward explanation of his thoughts, beliefs and undestandings, without shirking responsibility, or turning it on to others, thus truly proving that a Commander is responsible for every thing that his soldiers do...or fail to do. It will be many years before we see another memoir as good. I enjoyed every chapter of this book, and the unassuming way in which it was delivered! Thank you, General McChrystal.
The 'ol trooper
In reply to an earlier post on Jan 17, 2013 5:34:46 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 17, 2013 5:36:13 PM PST
Ernest F. Loomis says:
To Four books for word lovers... I disagree. I find General McChrystal to be quite personable. I have watched a number of his presentations from YALE and he is down to earth, humerous, quick-witted, and you can clearly see that he is loving....to his family, to his warriors, and to his profession. When you have finished the book, I hope you also will see it.