The Unforgiving Minute: A Soldier's Education

Paperback | February 23, 2010

byCraig M. Mullaney

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"One of the most thoughtful and honest accounts ever written by a young Army officer confronting all the tests of life." -Bob Woodward

In this surprise bestseller, West Point grad, Rhodes scholar, Airborne Ranger, and U. S. Army Captain Craig Mullaney recounts his unparalleled education and the hard lessons that only war can teach. While stationed in Afghanistan, a deadly firefight with al-Qaeda leads to the loss of one of his soldiers. Years later, after that excruciating experience, he returns to the United States to teach future officers at the Naval Academy. Written with unflinching honesty, this is an unforgettable portrait of a young soldier grappling with the weight of war while coming to terms with what it means to be a man.

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"One of the most thoughtful and honest accounts ever written by a young Army officer confronting all the tests of life." -Bob Woodward In this surprise bestseller, West Point grad, Rhodes scholar, Airborne Ranger, and U. S. Army Captain Craig Mullaney recounts his unparalleled education and the hard lessons that only war can teach. W...

Craig Mullaney grew up in a blue-collar, Irish-Catholic family in Rhode Island and graduated from West Point in 2000. An Airborne Ranger, Mullaney earned a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University. In 2003, he led an infantry rifle platoon along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. His platoon operated along the entire spectrum ...
Format:PaperbackDimensions:416 pages, 8.4 × 5.5 × 0.9 inPublished:February 23, 2010Publisher:Penguin Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0143116878

ISBN - 13:9780143116875

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INTRODUCTIONOne haunting afternoon on Losano Ridge in Afghanistan, Captain Craig Mullaney and his platoon were caught in a deadly firefight with al-Qaeda fighters when a message came over the radio: one of his soldiers had been killed in action. Mullaney’s education had been relentlessly preparing him for this moment. But when it came, it was more affecting than Mullaney could ever know. Afterward, the hardest questions remained. When the call came to lead his platoon into battle and earn his soldiers’ salutes, was he as ready as he had hoped to be? Had his education been sufficient for the unforgiving minutes he faced?A fascinating account of an Army captain’s unusual path through some of the most legendary seats of learning straight into a brutal fight with al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, The Unforgiving Minute is, above all, an unforgettable portrait of a young soldier grappling with the weight of his hard-earned knowledge while coming to grips with becoming a man.ABOUT CRAIG M. MULLANEYAfter leaving the military in 2008, Craig served as a national security adviser on Barack Obama’s presidential campaign and was the Chief of Staff for the President-elect’s Department of Defense Review Team. Craig is currently serving in the Department of Defense as the Principal Director for Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Central Asia. He lives in Washington, D.C., with his wife Meena.DISCUSSION QUESTIONSDiscuss Mullaney’s experiences at West Point, Ranger School, and Oxford. How does each of these institutions influence his development as a student, soldier, and leader? To what extent is the man Mullaney becomes a mixture or personification of these distinct institutions? What are the wartime challenges that his formal education does not prepare him for? What are the lessons Mullaney could only have learned on the battlefield?Who are Mullaney’s most influential educators, both in and out of the classroom? How or why are these educators able to teach him so effectively? How do they impact Mullaney’s maturation? What lessons do they impart?Discuss the role of travel and multiculturalism in Mullaney’s education. How do his travels through Europe, Asia, and the Middle East affect his worldview? How do his cross-cultural experiences with Meena and her family further encourage his growth?How does the study of literature and history inform Mullaney’s education? What roles do language and the thorough examination of the past play in his emerging sense of what it means to be a soldier, leader, and public servant?Discuss some of the leadership challenges that Mullaney faces in Afghanistan. How is he ultimately able to gain the respect of his men and superior officers in the face of these challenges? Are his leadership skills acquired and learned or are they an inherent and intrinsic part of his character?In the midst the chaos, death, and uncertainty of the war in Afghanistan, how does Mullaney maintain his sanity and humanity? To what extent are old familiars such as family, friends, literature, and the study of history able to sustain him in Afghanistan?How does communication—what is said and not said, what can be expressed verbally as opposed to through the written word, what can be expressed in English as opposed to a foreign language—affect Mullaney’s growth over the course of the book? When he returns from Afghanistan, what role does communication play in Mullaney’s transition from soldier to veteran? In what ways does Mullaney adopt a new lexicon or language to fit each place he inhabits?How does Mullaney’s theme of being an outsider manifest when he returns from Afghanistan? Where does this theme also appear in his home life, at West Point, in Ranger School, with his relationship with Meena, and in Afghanistan? Why does Mullaney keep coming back to this theme?Though The Unforgiving Minute chronicles Mullaney’s own education as a soldier, what can everyone learn from his experiences in Afghanistan?By the end of the book, what has Mullaney learned about leadership and authority? How do his men, his family, his teachers, and his superiors teach him these lessons? How do these lessons build on each other? How do they conflict with each other? How does Mullaney reconcile these conflicts in order to emerge as a veteran with an intact and unified sense of himself?What are the most important lessons Mullaney learns in West Point, Ranger School, Oxford, Afghanistan, and upon his return?Why did Mullaney originally join the military? At West Point, in Afghanistan, and at the Naval Academy, did he find what he was looking for?To whom did Mullaney feel he had duties? When did these duties collide? Was Mullaney able to resolve these conflicts? How?“The closer you look, the less you understand.” How did this apply to challenges Mullaney faced in Afghanistan and elsewhere? What were the characteristics Mullaney possessed that allowed him to survive and succeed in the diverse challenges he faced?The book is titled The Unforgiving Minute. Over the course of the book, people offer and withhold forgiveness, to and from one another, and to and from themselves. What were the terms of the forgiveness that was granted? What were the circumstances of the things that went unforgiven?

Editorial Reviews

"[The Unforgiving Minute] is one man's story, warmly and credibly told, and its focus is on the idealism that he brought to military service. In Captain Mullaney's mind there is no contradiction between loyally following orders and intelligently wondering what purpose those orders serve.... The Unforgiving Minute finds both suspense and pathos in the events that took place under its author's command. Its fierce climactic battle is recreated in searing detail. But what gives this memoir its impact isn't the external events that it describes. It's the inner journey of a man who is at first eager to learn as much as he can from service and scholarship. Later on he learns from his mistakes." -The New York Times "The Unforgiving Minute is a wonderful, beautifully written story of the education and development of a young soldier-scholar, the coming of age of an infantry officer, and the exercise of a small unit leader's responsibilities in a tough, complex, and frustrating situation in Afghanistan. It captures particularly eloquently and movingly the relationships among those who walk point for our nation as part of that most elite of fraternities, the brotherhood of the close fight." -General David Petraeus, Commander, U.S. Central Command "Craig Mullaney's memoir is a thoughtful, introspective work reminiscent of the great British memoirs of World War I. A thousand years from now, historians wanting to know about life in America after 9/11 would do well to look at this book. Equally important, it is an enjoyable and honest book. Read it." -Thomas E. Ricks, author of New York Times bestseller FIASCO: The American Military Adventure in Iraq and senior military correspondent, The Washington Post "[Craig Mullaney] ultimately delivers far more than the boy-to-man story that he promised.... In this extraordinary book, Mullaney has taken the trouble to look very closely, and has had the courage to discover the limits to his own understanding. Readers will be fascinated to look over his shoulder." -Washington Post Book World "Craig Mullaney has lived every kind of American life-he has been a working- man's son, a prize scholar, a soldier-and what's come out of it is a classic memoir about what it means to be American. By marching so many terrains, he has covered the subjects central to every life: courage, pain, loyalty, honor, friendship, love and the tests any good life faces, year by year, minute by minute. He has also produced a page-turner, a brutally honest account of West Point life, the innocence-abandoned experiences of an American abroad at Oxford, and ultimately an indelible story of life and death on the battlefield. In words his squadmates might recognize, I recommend The Unforgiving Minute without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion." -David Lipsky, contributing editor to Rolling Stone Magazine and author of the New York Times bestseller Absolutely American "The Unforgiving Minute is one of the most compelling memoirs yet to emerge from America's 9/11 era. Craig Mullaney has given us an unusually honest, funny, accessible, and vivid account of a soldier's coming of age. This is more than a soldier's story; it is a work of literature." -Steve Coll, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Ghost Wars and The Bin Ladens "Former Army Capt. Craig Mullaney admits up front that, emotionally, he takes after his expressive Irish mother, who is "incapable of stemming a tear." Mullaney is less candid and perhaps unaware of his talent for evoking emotion in others..... But The Unforgiving Minute is far from heavy and never maudlin. Mullaney's sense of humor is obvious....It is Mullaney's clear-eyed, warm- hearted candor that elicits empathy.... This self-effacing frankness makes his coming- of- age-in-uniform memoir a charmer.... Stunning [and] pertinent." -The Army Times "The Unforgiving Minute is the ultimate's soldier's book-universal in its raw emotion and its understanding of the larger issues of life and death. Mullaney, a master storyteller, plunges the depths of self-doubt, endurance, and courage. The result: a riveting, suspenseful human story, beautifully told. This is a book written under fire-a lyrical, spellbinding tale of war, love, and courage. The Unforgiving Minute is the Three Cups of Tea of soldiering." -Ahmed Rashid, author of the New York Times bestseller Taliban and Descent into Chaos "The Unforgiving Minute is a gripping account of a young military officer's quest to prepare for the unknowns of leadership under fire, and his eventual testing in Afghanistan. With unflinching candor, Mullaney depicts his evolution from idealistic teenager to reflective veteran who retains his conviction and patriotism once his innocence is lost. His emotional, often funny memoir takes us to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, through the rigors of Army Ranger school, then on to drunken debates and romance at Oxford, where he had a Rhodes Scholarship.... The book [is] a departure from traditionally dry military memoirs --it reads like a work of literature.... Mullaney's evolution through his intellectual and emotional journey grips on every page; his writing contains a modesty that becomes more endearing as his achievements mount. This is a classic coming-of-age memoir and a valuable insight into post-Sept. 11 conflict." -Bloomberg.com "Mullaney writes a great story-a true privilege to read. Entertaining, balanced, and graceful, The Unforgiving Minute is a powerful narrative of purpose, responsibility, courage, and personal growth. Every young man and woman in America should read this book, and aspire to his standard of public service." -General Wesley Clark, USA (Ret.) "The Unforgiving Minute is a classic memoir of war and personal development. Craig Mullaney has provided a far greater service to his nation by penning a riveting memoir that should be mandatory reading by every junior officer who dons the military uniform." -ARMY Magazine "I recommend The Unforgiving Minute because it is superb and important.... Read the book and you know the caliber of the men and women leading our troops and the troops themselves. More importantly, Craig shows the price of service to country and the cost of sacrifices so few individuals endure in our name." -The Huffington Post "Craig Mullaney has written a poignant and evocative book about the great hurdles in coming of age: love, death, belief, and betrayal. Learning from his experience can help us face our own unforgiving minutes. I couldn't stop reading." -Nathaniel Fick, author of the New York Times bestseller One Bullet Away "Insightful... This book should be read, certainly, by everyone who has a loved one who is serving in the military, has served or might one day serve. But it also should be required reading for all Americans.... His is a remarkable journey, recounted with unflinching honesty, thoughtful reflection, occasional humor and hard-won wisdom.... An unusual book that combines grittily realistic accounts of war with highly educated reflection and introspection.... If enough people read [The Unforgiving Minute], then perhaps we as a country would not have such a profound lack of understanding of the volunteer troops we send to fight our wars, and of the sacrifices that they and their families make." -Winston-Salem Journal "One of the most thoughtful and honest accounts ever written by a young Army officer confronting all the tests of life---education, love, self-knowledge, combat, and the fates of war." -Bob Woodward "There have been a slew of memoirs, many very go