Stanley McChrystal Biography

General(1954–)
Stanley A. McChrystal led the Joint Special Operations Command in Iraq during the Persian Gulf Wars and was top Commander of American forces in Afghanistan.

Synopsis

Stanley A. McChrystal was born on August 14, 1954, in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. In 1990, he became action officer for Army Special Operations, working in Joint Special Operations Command. In 1991, he saw action in the Desert Shield and Desert Storm tours. He was commander of the Joint Special Operations Command from 2003 to 2008. He became top commander in Afghanistan in 2009, but resigned in 2010.

Military Training

Military official Stanley Allen McChrystal was born on August 14, 1954, in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, the fourth of six children born to Mary Gardner Bright and Major General Herbert McChrystal. Stanley's father was a two-star general who served in Germany during the U.S. occupation after World War II, and later served for a stint at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. Growing up in the McChrystal household was described by extended family members as "intense," and steeped in military tradition; all of Stanley's siblings would go on to either join the military or marry into it.

Stanley McChrystal was no exception, and he entered the United States Military Academy at West Point in upstate New York in 1972. After graduation in 1976, McChrystal began serving in the U.S. Army's 82nd Airborne Division, moving up the ranks from second lieutenant to executive officer within the span of two years. He also married his long-time girlfriend, Anne, in April of 1977.

In 1978, McChrystal began training at the Special Forces School at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. At Fort Bragg, McChrystal lived an ascetic lifestyle, running 12 miles every morning, eating only one meal a day, and often sleeping less than four hours a night. He trained in unconventional warfare and counter-terrorism tactics, an expertise that would serve him well during his military career.

Climbing Military Ranks

McChrystal completed Special Forces training in 1979, becoming the commander of Detachment A, A Company, 7th Special Forces Group, Airborne, where he earned nicknames such as "Stan the Man" and "the Pope" for his work ethic and highly disciplined lifestyle. He served as a commander for a year before heading to Fort Benning, Georgia, to attend Infantry Officer Advanced courses.

After completing his coursework at Fort Benning in February 1981, McChrystal moved to South Korea. Here, the officer worked in intelligence and operations for the United Nations Command Support Group in the Joint Security Area, a site known at the time as a place for military negotiations between North Korea and the United Nations Command. He was then reassigned to Fort Stewart, Georgia, in March 1982 to serve as a training officer, moving up the ranks over the next four years to become the commander of A Company in the 75th Ranger Regiment of the elite American Special Operations Force known as the U.S. Army Rangers.

After brief stints as a battalion liaison officer and a battalion operations officer, McChrystal returned to school for a Command and Staff Course, this time reporting to the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island. He completed the course in 1990, and was assigned to the position of action officer for Army Special Operations, working in Joint Special Operations Command. In 1991, McChrystal saw action in both the Desert Shield and Desert Storm tours in Saudi Arabia during the Persian Gulf War, then returned to North Carolina to command the 2nd Battalion, 504th Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division from 1993 to 1994. From 1994 to 1996, McChrystal was in command of the 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment. In 1997, he assumed command of the entire 75th Ranger Regiment until 1999. 

Covert Operations

In addition to his strong military leadership, McChrystal excelled in academia, becoming a fellow at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in 1996, followed by a year as a military fellow for the Council on Foreign Relations in 1999.

Little is known of McChrystal's service as commander of the super-secret Joint Special Operations Command from 2003 to 2008, a unit so covert that the Pentagon denied its existence for decades. What is known is that, under McChrystal's command, JSOC was able to capture Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein in December 2003 as well as al- Qaeda leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in 2006.

But McChrystal also faced heavy criticism in his role as JSOC commander. In one instance, the Pentagon faulted McChrystal for a cover-up involving the 2004 death of former football star Pat Tillman. McChrystal claimed that Tillman had died at the hands of enemy combatants, approving the soldier's citation for a Silver Star. Later evidence proved, however, that Tillman's death had been the result of friendly fire. 

McChrystal and his secret Task Force 6-26 were also accused of unnecessarily violent interrogation tactics at Camp Nama in Baghdad, Iraq. The camp received repeated warnings from government officials for possible human rights violations during the questioning of suspects, and the reports of abuses were said to have outraged even CIA, FBI and DIA investigators accustomed to dealing with hostile detainees.

In May 2009, McChrystal's military training in special operations and unconventional warfare helped him land the role of top commander in Afghanistan, replacing former General David McKiernan. President Barack Obama, disappointed by McKiernan's handling of the war, believed McChrystal's knowledge of special ops would be especially useful when fighting against the unconventional tactics of Afghani insurgents.

Controversy and Resignation

Once in charge, McChrystal was openly vocal about the necessity for more troops; his doubts that the U.S. would achieve a major victory in Afghanistan; and his lack of faith in the new counterterrorism strategy. McChrystal's comments got him called onto the carpet several times in his first year, and was admonished by President Obama for his brash, divisive statements. But his biggest gaffe came in June 2010, when Rolling Stone magazine published an article featuring controversial quotes about the White House leadership made by McChrystal and his aides.

In the piece, McChrystal said he was "pretty disappointed" by his first meeting with President Obama, and dismissed Vice President Joe Biden with several crude jokes. He also expressed his frustration with key members of White House leadership, referring to them as "clowns." McChrystal was called to Washington D.C. several days later to meet with President Obama. At the meeting, McChrystal tendered his resignation. Obama accepted his dismissal, and replaced him on June 23, 2010 with General David Petraeus.

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