Retired Army Gen. Stanley McChrsytal says he got hit in the head by a metaphorical curveball, but he managed to pick himself up, dust himself off and transition from being a soldier to running a business, McChrystal wrote for Linkedin's 'Career Curveballs' blog. (Petty Officer 1st Class Mark O'Donald / DoD)
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Retired Army Gen. Stanley McChrsytal says he got hit in the head by a metaphorical curveball, but he managed to pick himself up, dust himself off and transition from being a soldier to running a business, McChrystal wrote for Linkedin‘s “Career Curveballs” blog.
In June 2010, McChrystal was serving as the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan when his 38-year military career came to an abrupt end due to an article in Rolling Stone magazine, which portrayed unidentified members of his staff being disrespectful toward civilian leaders. In the blog, posted on Tuesday, McChrsytal said the story depicted him and his staff “in a manner that felt as unfamiliar as it was unfair.”
But there was no way for McChrystal to undo the damage caused by the controversy surrounding the article and McChrystal flew to Washington, D.C., where he submitted his resignation to President Obama.
“I walked out of the Oval Office and in an instant, a profession that had been my life’s passion and focus came to an end,” he wrote. “I would not return to Afghanistan; the mission would continue without me. I no longer commanded the forces I loved.
“Even seemingly mundane details like where we lived and what I was called had shifted suddenly. The uniform I’d first donned as a 17-year old plebe at West Point, the uniform of my father, grandfather, and brothers, was no longer mine to wear.”
McChrystal had been a soldier for his entire adult life, and now that was over.
“I’d been soldiering as long as I’d been shaving,” he wrote. “Suddenly I’d been told I could no longer soldier, and it felt as though no one really cared if I ever shaved again. I’d caught a curveball directly on the chin; I wanted to find a corner of the dugout, away from TV cameras, to rub my head and maybe sniffle a bit.”
Instead of feeling like a victim, McChrystal decided to tackle the big questions before him: Now that he was no longer a soldier, what was he, and what would he do next? Since then, he has since started his own company, The McChrystal Group, and he teaches a course about leadership at Yale University.
“I was raised a soldier. I was familiar with weapons, tactics, and war,” he wrote. “But years on the battlefield had taught me that soldiering is really about people. Weapons don’t dig muddy foxholes – people do. War plans don’t evacuate wounded comrades – people do. The Pentagon doesn’t create the brotherhood of the Army – people do. What I’d learned, above all other lessons, was the importance of those you surround yourself with. That lesson would be with me forever, uniform or no uniform.”
Michael Hastings, the reporter that wrote the Rolling Stone article that ended McChrystal’s career, later turned his reporting from Afghanistan into a book: “The Operators.” Brad Pitt will reportedly play McChrystal in the movie version of the book. Hastings was killed in an August 2013 car crash.