Andrew Milburn

Andrew Milburn

Andy Milburn was born in Hong Kong and grew up in the United Kingdom where he attended St Paul’s School and University College London. After graduating from law school, he enlisted in the US Marine Corps as a private. He was commissioned from the ranks, and as a Marine infantry and special operations officer, has commanded in combat at every grade. As the commanding officer of the Marine Corps’ special operations regiment, he was selected to lead a multi-national task force given the mission of defeating ISIS in Iraq. He retired in 2019 as the Chief of Staff of Special Operations Command, Central (SOCCENT), the headquarters responsible for the conduct of all US special operations throughout the Middle East. Since then he has written articles on topics such as leadership, ethics and culture change, for a number of publications, to include the Atlantic Magazine, USA Today, and War On The Rocks. He and his wife Jessica live in Tampa, Florida with their two children and a coterie of rescued dogs. This is the story of what it’s like to lead those who fight America’s war told from one Marine’s perspective. It’s a perspective that varies widely in context, from the experiences of a raw second lieutenant leading Marines through the streets of Mogadishu, to those of a task force commander directing special operations forces in a complex fight against a formidable foe. In that sense it offers at least some variety and, I hope, a sense of progression. The story is intended to be more about the people with whom I have served than it is about me. Because I am a Marine – and without, I hope, appearing parochial – much of this story is about Marines, who in a sense belong to a world of their own. There is something enduringly familiar about their collective personality that I have always found comforting. The Marines who landed with me in Mogadishu, were much the same as those who marched on Baghdad, captured Fallujah, and subsequently took the fight to ISIS in Northern Iraq: upbeat, funny, brave, gracious, savvy and profane. And devoted to one another to an extent that often surprises outsiders. But the story is by no means all about Marines – I have been fortunate enough to lead in combat men and women from every service both from the conventional forces and within the special operations community, and they all share that same mutual devotion. And a justifiable pride in belonging to a profession whose demands most Americans would avoid. And in so far as this story is a memoir, I have made every effort to describe things as they were, rather than how I may have wanted them to be. I am open about the hard lessons that I have learned and the mistakes that I have made along the way. And – although this was particularly difficult for me – I am candid in discussion my own struggles with the isolation of command, post combat trauma and family tragedy. My initial drafts of the book omitted this area of my life, but a friend of mine advised me that if you are going to write a memoir you have to be totally honest, and he was right. I like to think that even readers who are not particularly interested in the military will find some inspiration in this part of the story, which is, I think, ultimately about hope and resilience.
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