Stanley Allen McChrystal
Graduate, U.S. Military Academy, Class of 1976
Engagements: • Gulf War (1990 - 1991)• Afghanistan War (Operation Enduring Freedom) (2001 - present)• Iraq War (Operation Iraqi Freedom) (2003 - 2011)
Stanley Allen McChrystal
Stanley Allen McChrystal was born on 14 August 1954 in Leavenworth, KS. He attended the U.S. Military Academy and, upon his graduation in 1976 was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the Army. His initial assignment was to C Company, 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, serving as weapons platoon leader from November 1976 to February 1978; as rifle platoon leader from February 1978 to July 1978; and as executive officer from July 1978 to November 1978.
In November 1978, McChrystal enrolled as a student in the Special Forces Officer Course at the Special Forces School at Fort Bragg, NC. Upon completing the course in April 1979, he remained at Fort Bragg as Commander of Detachment A, A Company, 1st Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) until June 1980, when he attended the Infantry Officer Advanced Course at the Infantry School at Fort Benning, GA, until February 1981.
In February 1981, McChrystal moved to South Korea as Intelligence and Operations Officer (S-2/S-3) for the United Nations Command Support Group-Joint Security Area. He reported to Fort Stewart, GA, in March 1982 to serve as Training Officer in the Directorate of Plans and Training, A Company, Headquarters Command. He moved to 3rd Battalion, 19th Infantry, 24th Infantry Division (Mechanized) in November 1982, where he commanded A Company before becoming Battalion Operations Officer (S-3) in September 1984.
McChrystal moved to 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, as Battalion Liaison Officer in September 1985, became Commander of A Company in January 1986, served again as Battalion Liaison Officer in May 1987, and finally became Battalion Operations Officer (S-3) in April 1988. He reported to the Naval War College in Newport, RI, as a student in the Command and General Staff Course in June 1989. After completing the course in June 1990, he was assigned as Army Special Operations Action Officer, J-3, Joint Special Operations Command until April 1993, in which capacity he deployed to Saudi Arabia for Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.
From April 1993 to November 1994, McChrystal commanded the 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division. He then commanded the 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, from November 1994 to June 1996. During this time he would spur the beginnings of Modern Army Combatives by prompting a review of the existing hand-to-hand combat curricula. After a year as a Senior Service College Fellow at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, he moved up to command the entire 75th Ranger Regiment from June 1997 to August 1999, then spent another year as a Military Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.
General Officer Service
Promoted to Brigadier General on 1 January 2001, he served as Assistant Division Commander (Operations) of the 82nd Airborne Division from June 2000 to June 2001, including duty as Commander, U.S. Army Central (dubbed "Coalition/Joint Task Force Kuwait") in Camp Doha, Kuwait. From June 2001 to July 2002, he was Chief of Staff of XVIII Airborne Corps, including duty as Chief of Staff of Combined Joint Task Force 180, the headquarters formation contributed by XVIII Airborne Corps to direct all Operation Enduring Freedom operations in Afghanistan. At the beginning of the Iraq War in March 2003, he was serving in the Pentagon as a member of the Joint Staff, where he had been Vice Director of Operations, J-3, since July 2002. McChrystal was selected to deliver nationally televised Pentagon briefings on U.S. military operations in Iraq, including one in April 2003 shortly after the fall of Baghdad, in which he announced, "I would anticipate that the major combat engagements are over."
Commander, Joint Special Operations Command
He commanded the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) for five years, serving first as Commanding General, Joint Special Operations Command, from September 2003 to February 2006, and then as Commander, Joint Special Operations Command/Commander, Joint Special Operations Command Forward, from February 2006 to August 2008. Nominally assigned to Fort Bragg, he spent most of his time in Afghanistan at U.S. Central Command's forward headquarters in Qatar, and in Iraq. Early successes included the capture by JSOC forces of Saddam Hussein in December 2003. He was promoted to Lieutenant General on 16 February 2006.
As head of what Newsweek termed "the most secretive force in the U.S. military," McChrystal maintained a very low profile until June 2006, when his forces were responsible for the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq. After McChrystal's team successfully located Zarqawi and called in the airstrike that killed him, McChrystal accompanied his men to the bombed-out hut near Baqubah to personally identify the body.
McChrystal's Zarqawi unit, Task Force 6-26, became well-known for its interrogation methods, particularly at Camp Nama, where it was accused of abusing detainees. After the Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse scandal became public in April 2004, 34 members of the task force were disciplined.
McChrystal was also criticized for his role in the aftermath of the 2004 death by friendly fire of Ranger and former professional football player Pat Tillman. Within a day of Tillman's death, McChrystal was notified that Tillman was a victim of friendly fire. Shortly thereafter, McChrystal was put in charge of paperwork to award Tillman a posthumous Silver Star for valor. On 28 April 2004, six days after Tillman's death, McChrystal approved a final draft of the Silver Star recommendation and submitted it to the acting Secretary of the Army, even though the medal recommendation deliberately omitted any mention of friendly fire, included the phrase "in the line of devastating enemy fire," and was accompanied by fabricated witness statements. On 29 April, McChrystal sent an urgent memo warning White House speechwriters not to quote the medal recommendation in any statements they wrote for President Bush because it "might cause public embarrassment if the circumstances of Corporal Tillman's death become public." McChrystal was one of the first to caution restraint in public statements, until the investigation was complete. McChrystal was one of eight officers recommended for discipline by a subsequent Pentagon investigation but the Army declined to take action against him.
According to Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward, beginning in late spring 2007, JSOC and CIA Special Activities Division teams launched a new series of highly effective covert operations that coincided with the Iraq War troop surge of 2007. They did this by killing or capturing many of the key al-Qa'ida leaders in Iraq. In a CBS 60 Minutes interview, Woodward described a new special operations capability that allowed for this success, noting that it was developed by the joint teams of CIA and JSOC. Several senior U.S. officials stated that the "joint efforts of JSOC and CIA paramilitary units were the most significant contributor to the defeat of al-Qa'ida in Iraq."
Director, Joint Staff
McChrystal was considered a candidate to succeed General Bryan D. Brown as Commander of U.S. Special Operations Command in 2007, and to succeed General David Petraeus as Commanding General of Multi-National Force - Iraq, or Admiral William J. Fallon as Commander of U.S. Central Command in 2008; all four-star positions. Instead, McChrystal was nominated by George W. Bush to succeed Lieutenant General Walter L. Sharp as director of the Joint Staff in February 2008, another three-star position.
Normally a routine process, McChrystal's Senate confirmation was stalled by members of the Senate Armed Services Committee who sought more information about the alleged mistreatment of detainees by Special Operations troops under McChrystal's command in Iraq and Afghanistan. After meeting with McChrystal in private, the Senate Armed Services Committee confirmed his reappointment as Lieutenant General in May 2008 and he became Director of the Joint Staff in August 2008.
Commander of US and ISAF forces in Afghanistan
With his 10 June 2009 Senate approval to take command in Afghanistan, McChrystal was promoted to general. Shortly after McChrystal assumed command of NATO operations, Operation Khanjar commenced, marking the largest offensive operation and the beginning of the deadliest combat month for NATO forces since 2001.
Afghanistan Assessment Made Public
McChrystal submitted a 66-page report to Defense Secretary Robert Gates calling for more troops in Afghanistan, saying "We are going to win," which became public on 20 September 2009. McChrystal warned that the war in Afghanistan may be lost if more troops are not sent, but the report ends on a note of cautious optimism: "While the situation is serious, success is still achievable." McChrystal's release to the public of his recommendation to the Secretary of Defense was described by critics as an "unprecedented" move by a general to force the hand of the president, and some in Congress called on the president to fire McChrystal for making the report public. Congressman Dennis Kucinich stated the view that generals are "subordinate to the president who is the commander-in-chief. He's the boss. And when generals start trying to suggest publicly what the president should do, they shouldn't be generals anymore." McChrystal's "strategic assessment team" included: Fred Kagan, Kimberly Kagan of the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), Stephen Biddle of the Council on Foreign Relations, Anthony Cordesman of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, Andrew Exum of the Centre for a New American Security (CNAS), and Jeremy Shapiro of the Brookings Institution. The campaigns and coordinated efforts by generals and policy institutions seek to articulate to the public and policy-makers why they should support military policies, as well as current and proposed wars. Such joint civilian-military public relations, say critics, raises important questions about the appropriate role of the military in promoting particular policies and whether there is enough transparency and accountability in the work of policy groups.
Recommended Troop Increases
In 2009, McChrystal publicly suggested between 30,000 and 40,000 more troops were needed in Afghanistan, as the lowest risk option out of a number of possible troop level changes. Scott Ritter, former Chief U.N. Weapons Inspector in Iraq, has stated that McChrystal should be fired for insubordination for disclosing information that he should have said only in private to the President of the United States.
The New York Magazine refers to the leaked report as the "McChrystal risk" as it boxed Obama into a corner about boosting troop levels in Afghanistan.
Rolling Stone Article and Resignation
In an article written by freelance journalist Michael Hastings, "The Runaway General," appearing in issue no. 1108/1109 of Rolling Stone magazine (8-22 July 2010), McChrystal and his staff mocked civilian government officials, including Joe Biden, National Security Advisor James L. Jones, U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl W. Eikenberry, and Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke. McChrystal was not quoted as being directly critical of the president or the president's policies, but several comments from his aides in the article reflected their perception of McChrystal's disappointment with Obama on the first two occasions of their meeting. McChrystal's staff was contacted prior to release of the article and did not deny the validity of the article, though senior members of his staff dispute this, and have accused Hastings in "Army Times" of exaggerating the seniority of aides quoted and breaking the "off the record" trust of private conversations. Hastings told Newsweek that he was quite clearly a reporter gathering material, and actually bemused at the degree to which soldiers were free when speaking to him.
The statements attributed to McChrystal and members of his staff drew the attention of the White House when McChrystal called Biden to apologize. McChrystal issued a written statement, saying:
"I extend my sincerest apology for this profile. It was a mistake reflecting poor judgment and should never have happened. Throughout my career, I have lived by the principles of personal honor and professional integrity. What is reflected in this article falls far short of that standard. I have enormous respect and admiration for President Obama and his national security team, and for the civilian leaders and troops fighting this war and I remain committed to ensuring its successful outcome."
Biden's call to tell him of the apology prompted Obama to request a copy of the profile and then to summon McChrystal to attend in person the president's monthly security team meeting at the White House in lieu of attending via secure video teleconference. During a brief (less than 20 minutes) meeting with Obama on 23 June, two days before the article was released to newsstands and only one day after it was released online, McChrystal tendered his resignation, which the president accepted. Shortly thereafter, Obama nominated General David Petraeus to replace McChrystal in his role as top commander in Afghanistan. Obama's statement on the topic began as follows: "Today I accepted Gen. Stanley McChrystal's resignation as commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. I did so with considerable regret, but also with certainty that it is the right thing for our mission in Afghanistan, for our military and for our country."
Later that day McChrystal released the following statement:
"This morning the president accepted my resignation as Commander of U.S. and NATO Coalition Forces in Afghanistan. I strongly support the president's strategy in Afghanistan and am deeply committed to our coalition forces, our partner nations, and the Afghan people. It was out of respect for this commitment-and a desire to see the mission succeed-that I tendered my resignation. It has been my privilege and honor to lead our nation's finest."
Shortly after his removal from command in Afghanistan, McChrystal announced that he would retire from the Army. The day after the announcement, the White House announced that he would retain his four-star rank in retirement, although law generally requires a general officer to hold his rank for three years in order to retain it in retirement. His retirement ceremony was held on 23 July 2010 at Fort McNair in Washington DC. During this ceremony, McChrystal was awarded the Army Distinguished Service Medal by Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey and the Defense Distinguished Service Medal by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. On 16 August, Yale University announced that it had hired McChrystal to teach a graduate seminar in modern leadership at the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs. In November 2010, JetBlue Airways announced that McChrystal would join its board of directors. On 16 February 2011, Navistar announced that McChrystal would join its board of directors.
Medals and Awards
Defense Distinguished Service Medal (2 Awards)
Badges and Tabs
Although Mr. Michael Hastings and Mr. Eric Bates, Executive Editor of Rolling Stone, repeatedly defended the accuracy of Hastings' article about General McChrystal, an inquiry by the Defense Department inspector general has found no proof of wrongdoing by General McChrystal or his military and civilian associates. The Pentagon report also challenged the accuracy of Mr. Hastings' article "The Runaway General," disputing key incidents or comments reported in Mr. Hastings' article. The report from the inquiry states "In some instances, we found no witness who acknowledged making or hearing the comments as reported. In other instances, we confirmed that the general substance of an incident at issue occurred, but not in the exact context described in the article." In response, Rolling Stone stated that "The report by the Pentagon's inspector general offers no credible source - or indeed, any named source - contradicting the facts as reported in our story, 'The Runaway General.'" After the report was made public, the White House tapped General McChrystal to head a new advisory board to support military families, an initiative led by First Lady Michelle Obama and Jill Biden, wife of the vice president. The selection of McChrystal was announced on 12 April, four days after the inspector general's report was finished.
McChrystal is the son of Mary Gardner Bright and Major General Herbert J. McChrystal, Jr. He was the fourth child in a family of five boys and a girl; all of whom would serve in the military or marry military spouses. His older brother, Colonel Scott McChrystal, is a retired U.S. Army Chaplain, and is the endorsing agent for the Assemblies of God. McChrystal married his wife, Annie, in April 1977; the couple has one adult son, Sam. McChrystal is reported to run 7 to 8 miles daily, eat one meal per day, and sleep four hours a night.
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