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The Unforgiving Minute: A Soldier's Education

The Unforgiving Minute: A Soldier's Education

4.2 87
by Craig 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


"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.

Editorial Reviews

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"Were you ready?" a young cadet asks Mullaney, a history teacher at the Naval Academy. Is any soldier prepared for the unforgiving minutes they'll face in combat? July 1, 1996, was stamped on Mullaney's military records with an authoritative finality, the date of his entrance to West Point and the beginning of his education as a soldier. West Point grad, Army Ranger, and Rhodes scholar -- years later, his training and preparation land him in Afghanistan. Was the sum of his experience and education sufficient to face the life-changing test before him?

Mullaney was born and raised in Rhode Island, the son of working-class parents, and his story is the extraordinary account of an amazing journey. Eager for the physical and mental challenges of West Point, his plebe's-eye view is at once hilarious and harrowing. The rigors of Army Ranger School readied him for a military career, and the louche pub crawls and intellectual tests at Oxford provided a two-year respite. Deployed to Afghanistan, Mullaney and his platoon face a deadly firefight with Al-Qaeda fighters in which one of his men is killed, forcing Mullaney to question his years of dogged and relentless preparation.

Now, as he watches his younger brother chart a similar course, he recounts his life path, examining his own unforgiving minutes. In the process, Mullaney tells a remarkable story. (Spring 2009 Selection)
Chris Bray
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.
—The Washington Post
Janet Maslin
…[a] brisk, candid memoir…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
Young Captain Mullaney's admirable, literate autobiography, that of a veteran of combat in Afghanistan, adds much to knowledge of the modern army and makes a valuable contribution to the ongoing debate over what a "warrior" is these days. Mullaney wryly recounts his years at West Point and as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, then writes eloquently of infantry combat and the persistent burden of guilt for not bringing all his men home even as he makes his account a tribute to his fellow warriors. He concludes with sidelights on his teaching post at the U.S. Naval Academy and the moving story of his younger brother's graduation from West Point and subsequent passage into the ranks of the warriors himself. Almost impossible to put down for anyone interested in the modern U.S. Army or in modern warfare in general.
Kirkus Reviews
Keenly intelligent war memoir whose central question is, "What is a man?"'First-time author Mullaney, a West Point graduate, Rhodes Scholar and veteran of combat in Afghanistan, searches for the answer while investigating a second question: What kind of man is a soldier? At West Point and in the Army, soldier and man are one and the same. Mullaney's intelligence and sensitivity are too fine-tuned for such a simple conflation. Nevertheless, war and the training he underwent to prepare for it provided the instruments with which he takes the measure of his own manhood. The oldest of four children in a working-class Irish-American family from rural Rhode Island, Mullaney was already mature beyond his years as the memoir begins with his 1996 departure for West Point, where he drove himself to excel in both sport and scholarship. The book is divided in three parts of unequal length: Student, Soldier and Veteran. In the first and longest section, Mullaney contrasts his Spartan education at West Point and Army Ranger School at Fort Benning, Ga., with the more Athenian style of scholarship at Oxford, where he read history and world literature, polished his rough edges and met Meena, the Tamil-American doctor-in-training who became his wife. As a soldier in Afghanistan, all of Mullaney's education was put to the test. He took pride in a humanitarian mission he led near Gardez to vaccinate members of the Kuchi tribe and treat their animals to a veterinary checkup. But when his company moved to Shkin, near the border with Pakistan and on the front of the war against al-Qaeda, the death of one of his soldiers made him agonize over his responsibility and doubt his ultimate commitment to the mission. Asa veteran, attending his brother's West Point graduation, Mullaney says, "there was so much I wanted to say to him...[but] I realized how little I could convey . . . the rest Gary would have to learn for himself."A philosophically ambitious account of coming to adulthood, only slightly marred by occasional bursts of sentimentality and sententiousness. Agent: E.J. McCarthy/E.J. McCarthy Agency
From the Publisher
"McLaren's subtle treatment avoids exaggeration while preserving the emotional moods the author intended for his memories of romance, combat, and death." ---AudioFile

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

Reception Day

In case of Sudden and Temporary Immersion,
the Important Thing is to keep the Head Above Water.

A. A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

"Get off my bus!" screamed the cadet in charge. "You're not moving fast enough. Move it. Move it. Move it!" We stampeded from the bus like a startled herd of wildebeest, clutching our small gym bags with white-knuckled grips. As we poured into the hot July sunlight, chiseled senior cadet cadre aligned our crooked ranks.

"Left, face."

Forty eighteen-year-olds turned at different speeds toward another white-starched cadet cadre. We must have looked ridiculous-a ragtag collection of shorts, untucked T-shirts, and long hair.

"Drop your bags."

They landed on the pavement with a thud.

"You will now begin the administrative portion of your processing. Follow all instructions both quickly and quietly. During this process you will pass water fountains. You are authorized and encouraged to use them. Do you understand?"

I nodded my head with the others.

"Pick up your bags."

July 1, 1996 was stamped on my military record like a wine's vintage-my "date of initial entry into military service." As my high school classmates alternated between summer jobs, afternoons at the beach, and summer reading lists, I headed off to West Point, New York. R-Day, short for "Reception Day," was the first day of a six-week period of basic training. There was absolutely nothing hospitable about this first day of military indoctrination, beginning with an exercise in severing family bonds. After standing in a straggling line of twelve hundred would-be freshmen and their parents, I was herded into the basketball arena with another thirty "cadet candidates." I had ninety seconds to say good-bye to my parents.

After obeying my first military order, I marched up the stairs and through a set of double doors. Even before the door shut behind me, it became clear what my first year at West Point was going to be like.

"What are you looking at, candidate?" shouted a five-foot-five cadet. The volume of his voice was inconsistent with his height.


"Aren't you going to call me sir?"

"Sir, yes, sir."

"Are you at the Naval Academy?"

"Sir, no, sir."

"Then stop making sir sandwiches, candidate. It's 'yes, sir' or 'no, sir.'" He lowered his voice to a vicious whisper. "What's your name, candidate?"

"Craig, sir."

"Is that your first name?" His eyes widened.

"Yes, sir."

"Do you think I care what your first name is? Do you think I want to be your friend?"

"No, sir."

"Just get out of my hallway. Move over to that table and fill out your tag."

"Yes, sir."

I hurried over and wrote my last name in big bold letters. The tag had a dozen boxes to check off as we were "processed" from civilians into military recruits. I hung it around my neck as instructed and boarded the school bus. I sat down on the crowded bus but was too cowed by my scolding to strike up any conversation. What am I doing here?

"Step up to my line. Do not step on my line. Do not step over my line. Step up to my line." A cadet glared at me under the black brim of a white service cap and swung his hand in front of his face, signaling that I should advance precisely to the line of demarcation pasted on the pavement in green tape. This was the first lesson in literal obedience.

He was the "Cadet in the Red Sash"-the first cadre member I needed to report to in order to join my company. I stood before him in a ludicrous uniform of newly issued cadet gym shorts, knee-high black socks, and Oxford low-quarter dress shoes. My head had been shorn of its five-inch locks, revealing a topography of old scars and virgin white scalp.

"Re-port," he bellowed at me from a distance of eighteen inches.

"New Cadet Mullaney reports to the…the…"

"Are you stuttering while you report?" His hot breath dried the sweat on my face.

"Yes, sir."

"Did I give you permission to stutter?"

"No, sir."

I began again: "New Cadet Mullaney…"

"Stop. What did you do wrong?" My newly bald scalp burned under the midday sun.

"Sir, I don't know."

"I don't know. I don't know," he repeated. "Is 'I don't know' one of your four responses?"

"No, sir."

"What are your four responses?" he asked, testing whether I remembered another cadet's instructions on answering questions.

"Yes, sir. No, Sir. No excuse, sir. Sir, I do not understand."

"That's right, New Cadet. Why did you stutter? Did you not have sufficient time to practice?"

"I forgot, sir." I could almost see smoke billow out of his ears.

" 'I forgot' is not one of your four responses. Try again."

"No excuse, sir," I responded correctly. I must have replied "No excuse, sir" a thousand times that first year, hammering into my head an acknowledgment of personal responsibility that eventually became second nature.

"Try again, New Cadet."

"Sir, New Cadet --"

"Aren't you going to ask to make a correction?"

"Yes, sir. Sir, may I make a correction?"


"Sir, New Cadet Mullaney reports to the Cadet in the Red Sash for the first time as ordered."

"Are you going to salute when you report?"

"Yes, sir. Sir, may I make a correction?"

"Make it."

I raised my fingertips to my eyebrow as I saluted and repeated my report.

"New Cadet, that is the sorriest salute I have seen today." I couldn't believe how many mistakes I was making. I am better than this, I told myself.

The red-sashed, barrel-chested cadet manipulated my arm into a better approximation of a West Point salute: fingers closed and extended in a straight line to my elbow, arm parallel to the ground, palm canted toward my eyes.

"Move out, New Cadet. I haven't got all day."

A line extended behind me, other sheep waiting for the slaughter. I picked up my laundry bag of new clothing items, ran up six flights of stairs, and walked briskly down the hall toward the room indicated on my tag. Inside the room were a coat closet, several dresser drawers, three bare desks and bookshelves, and three mattresses on metal frames. The linoleum floor, dull and drab, smelled of Lysol. For that matter, everything in the barracks smelled of Lysol. Outside the window a green parade field stretched to a copse of trees and a steep drop to the Hudson River, a half mile across. It wouldn't be such a long swim, I thought. Before I could introduce myself to my roommates, two knocks at the door preceded the entrance of a cadre member.

"Call the room to attention, dammit." I looked at his name tag. "You," he pointed at my chest, "the one eye-balling me."

"Room, atten-hut." We sprang to attention.

"You sound like a goddam Marine." He looked down at the tag still hanging around my neck. "Mullaney, do you think this is the goddam Marine Corps? There is no 'hut' in the Army."

"Yes, sir."

"I'm Cadet Bellinger, as Mullaney here found out by investigation, and I am your squad leader. I am not your friend, your counselor, or your coach. Do you understand?"

"Yes, sir," we answered in unison.

"Say it like soldiers, goddam it."


Yes, sir." "Much better," he said, satisfied for the moment. "I want you down there" -- he pointed from the window down to the concrete pavement between our barracks and the parade field -- "in five minutes. You will be wearing the uniform I am in right now. Do you see how I am wearing my uniform?"

"Yes, sir."

He strode out the door and slammed the door behind him as we dove into our bags and assembled our uniforms in a flurry of brass buckles, black nylon socks, and gray trousers so abrasive that hair didn't grow on my thighs for the next four years.

We stood in a row under the shade of an elm tree in front of MacArthur Barracks. This was what the Army meant by a formation: any number of soldiers standing at attention and prepared for training, marching, or, more typically, waiting. We were being formed. The ten of us, sweating into new leather low-quarter shoes, would cohere over time into a more competent squad. I would soon learn the Rule of Four, a trick for remembering this strange new hierarchy. Sergeants with at least four years of experience lead squads in the Army. Four squads comprised a platoon, the smallest unit in the Army commanded by a commissioned officer. The focus of military training at West Point was to prepare the new lieutenants it graduated for just this role, to be platoon leaders. With seasoning, officers commanded at higher levels. Four platoons made a company, with around 150 soldiers and sergeants, which was led by a company commander, a captain. For most officers this was the highest level at which they would command before finishing their service. For officers who chose a career in the Army and earned promotions to colonel, they competed to command battalions (four companies) and brigades (four battalions). Only generals got the opportunity to lead entire divisions, such as the famed 82nd Airborne or 10th Mountain.

West Point was organized like a brigade. Cadets played the roles of sergeants and officers in order to give every cadet the opportunity to hone his or her leadership abilities. As new cadets, we were the privates. Our purpose was to follow, to obey, and to be formed in the image of our leaders. We had begun our transformation, reduced to a common denominator, at the barbershop. Now, dressed identically, it was time for us to learn how to walk again.

"I have two hours to teach you how to march like soldiers. Marching is what we do here. Every day. To breakfast. To lunch. After school. On Saturday mornings. Understood?"

"Yes, sir."

"Good," he continued. "Right, face."

We turned to the right to form a column. Bellinger looked down at the ground in dismay, "We'll have to work on that. All right now, keeping your fists tight and your arms straight at your side, move your left arm forward and step forward with your right foot."

We moved forward with a lurch, frozen in mid-stride.

"Excellent. Now move your right arm and left foot."

Bellinger led us through twenty iterations of this choreographed awkward motion. I had always assumed marching was not much different from walking. I had never worried, for instance, about a bouncy step or gave much thought to swinging my arms exactly nine inches forward and six to the rear. I wondered how many cadre were laughing at us as we robo-walked across the Apron, looking like Monty Python's Ministry of Silly Walks.

"Not bad for starters. Let's add a beat." Bellinger began chanting: "Dum-dum-DUM-DUM-DUM, dum-dum-DUM-DUM-DUM."

Within fifty feet we were completely out of rhythm.

"Focus on the man in front of you. Do what he does."

This worked better, but I still walked like a marionette doll with no control over my own limbs. In the distance a bass drum beat a steady thump, perhaps alerted that over a thousand novices were trying to will their natural strides into an unfamiliar gait. The tallest had to walk at funeral pace and the shortest legs overreached comically. Around and around we marched-column left, march, column left, march, mark time, march, forward, march, dum-dum-DUM-DUM-DUM.

The sun began to sink behind the barracks as our newly constituted platoon streamed onto the parade field. Our families, having completed their own daylong indoctrination into military parenting, awaited us with cameras and binoculars. Our black shoes, peppered with fresh grass clippings, rooted us as firmly to the ground as the guidon flags planted in front of each company. We snapped to attention as the cadet commander introduced our class to the Superintendent, Lieutenant General Daniel Christman, Class of 1965. In an address that was meant more for our families than us, he recounted the accomplishments of the nearly two hundred West Point classes that had preceded us. With hard work and perseverance, we too might join this Long Gray Line of distinguished alumni. The crowd applauded, and we raised our right hands at the command of our cadre. After swearing an oath to support the Constitution and obey the legal orders of superior officers, the band played the national anthem. A hum from our ranks grew louder as we sang along. In front of us, beyond the crowd, the American flag beat against the wind whipping between Storm King Mountain and Breakneck Ridge, down the Hudson River, and up the bluff where we stood -- anxious, exhausted, and terrified. At the moment, joining the Long Gray Line seemed less important than surviving the first day.

With identical uniforms and shaved heads, we were virtually indistinguishable from one another. The transformation was a testament to the efficiency of military indoctrination. As the parade concluded, we marched past proud and nervous parents. At the command of eyes right, I searched for my own parents in vain. We turned our backs to the stands as the wind whistled past Trophy Point's cannons and drove us forward. We headed toward arched passageways marked with the names of hallowed battlefields. LEYTE GULF. CORREGIDOR. NORMANDY. The letters faded into shadow. The ranks of white in front of me merged into gray stone, and a hail of terrifying commands grew louder with each perfectly measured step. The barracks, backlit by the setting sun, jutted out like boulders carved from the hill beyond. At the crest of the hill, two hundred feet above our uniforms of white and gray, stood the chapel -- a mass of granite blocks soaring to a crenellated bell tower. It was impossible to imagine West Point built of anything other than granite and steel.


What People are Saying About This

General Wesley Clark
"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.))
From the Publisher
"McLaren's subtle treatment avoids exaggeration while preserving the emotional moods the author intended for his memories of romance, combat, and death." —-AudioFile
Ahmed Rashid
"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)
Steve Coll
"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)
David Lipsky
"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)
General David Petraeus
"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)

Meet the Author

A native Rhode Islander, Craig M. Mullaneytrained with the Army's 10th Mountain Division and deployed to Afghanistan where he led an infantry rifle platoon in combat along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. He is currently a member of the Obama-Biden Transition Project.

Todd McLaren was involved in radio for more than twenty years in cities on both coasts. He left broadcasting for a full-time career in voice-overs, where he has been heard on more than 5,000 TV and radio commercials, as well as TV promos, narrations for documentaries on such networks as A&E and the History Channel, and films.

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The Unforgiving Minute: A Soldier's Education 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 87 reviews.
JoelH More than 1 year ago
Not many authors who write first-person accounts of life in the military would include on their recommended reading lists Shakespeare¿s Henry V or Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev. That Craig Mullaney does says a great deal about "The Unforgiving Minute: A Soldier¿s Education." This volume is a compelling account of military life at West Point and in Afghanistan, where Mullaney commanded a platoon in that treacherous landscape hard by the Pakistani border. In between his years in uniform, Mullaney had the distinction of spending two years at Oxford University as a Rhodes scholar, and he uses his academic side to add unexpected dimensions to "The Unforgiving Minute." He offers a vivid account of West Point discipline¿his experience in Army Ranger training is particularly harrowing¿and real front-line dangers posed by real enemies. That would be enough to make this a fine book, but Mullaney includes themes¿soldierly camaraderie, father-son relationships, even a little bit of romance¿that make it a lot more.
All of Mullaney¿s training comes into play for one unforgiving minute in Afghanistan. I¿d never fully understood why the Army humiliated and even brutalized its future leaders before sending them out to combat. "The Unforgiving Minute" provides the answer.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As someone who has never picked up a war memoir, I was captivated and touched by this book¿s ability to make a new world of experiences accessible to me. Mullaney¿s book spans West Point, Oxford University and the mountains of Afghanistan where he led a platoon of men, and ultimately lost one of his soldiers in one of war¿s unforgiving minutes.

Military academies and military life have always been black holes to me ¿ I knew they existed, but had never known anyone who had gone through the experience. Part of me was uncomfortable with the image of an over-the-top fraternity-like experience. To experience West Point and battle through Mullaney¿s eyes was to understand the deeply-abiding love, sacrifices, and rewards of the men and women of our military in a new way. Mullaney¿s ability to weave personal reflection and insights throughout his stories of hardship, laughter, sorrow, excitement and wonder made this book nearly impossible to put down even with a toddler running around my feet. As a mother of two sons who may one day be called to serve with the military, this book provided a meaningful window into an important American institution.

This book also provides an important window into the war in Afghanistan. Most media analysis is provided by reporters and writers who may travel with and speak with soldiers but have not experienced life in the field. Mullaney¿s background as a West Point graduate, a soldier and leader on the ground in the highly volatile Afghan-Pakistan border region, and a scholar with obvious intellectual and moral fiber make his reflections on the war and its future required reading for all of us concerned with US foreign policy today.

A definite must-read that covers the needs of both heart and mind.
RocketManPR More than 1 year ago
A riveting story of one man's preparation for the ultimate test of a military leader. This book takes you from West Point to Oxford to the battlefield on the Afghan Pakistan border. The stakes are high all along the way. Craig Mullaney melds the soul of a poet with the courage of a warrior. His lyrical account of his personal and professional development sets a new standard for modern battlefield memoir.
CPG More than 1 year ago
Readers will find so many embedded, thought-provoking narratives in Craig Mullaney's outstanding book - what it takes to become a man and leader, modesty and humility in a new generation's story of heroic learning and deeds (a refreshing break from the cartoonish silent super heroes we often have seen), the strength that comes from linking thinking and action, the acknowledgement that training never ends. Life will always have its "Semper Gumby" moments. On another level, one is left questioning how the military can get better information faster about equipment and support needs from the soldiers on the front lines up the chain of command. How can the military meld the value of hierarchical organization structure with the entrepreneurial ideas that come from our fighting men and women? Thank you, Craig Mullaney.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Mullaney's memoir brilliantly captures the struggles and triumphs of a junior military officer and places those experiences in the context of contemporary American life. The Unforgiving Minute documents the difficulty and pressure of transforming the best education and training in the world into success in an extraordinarily confusing insurgency, and learning from the mix of courage mustered and cowardice borne on the battlefield. However, it does not stop at shedding light on that facet of the American experience. In reflecting on preparation for the unforgiving minute, performance during that crucible of combat, and teaching those who would follow, it also tells a coming-of-age tale in which love and betrayal lead to untold challenges and immense personal growth. Reflective, but often humorous, The Unforgiving Minute commands the reader's attention from start to finish. It is essential to understanding, at a personal level, our times.
DenverMom-MD More than 1 year ago
This wonderful memoir gripped my attention from the first chapter and held it all the way to the end, as I accompanied the author on his journey from West Point, through Ranger School, to Oxford on a Rhodes Scholarship, and then to Afghanistan and back. On the way, in a truly readable, compelling narrative, the author invited me to share in his most physically and emotionally challenging moments, to celebrate his successes and deeply mourn his losses. All the amazing advance praise for this book is well founded. I couldn't put this book down and will recommend it to all my friends.
Osborne_Cox More than 1 year ago
As a combat veteran of Afghanistan and Iraq, my skepticism of contemporary young soldier memoirs runs deep. Hardly would I have been able to stomach another Rambo-like narrative. Life and war are never so simple.

So, it was with some reluctance that I picked up Mr. Mullaney¿s book. And, I am pleased to report back that The Unforgiving Minute is a masterful work. It is a book that will be appreciated by those who want to lead, learn or love (Mr. Mullaney is fortunate enough to have experienced all three in his young life). Its candor is striking, its language moving.

For me, the book is most impressive in its honesty and its eloquence. Mullaney may be a proven soldier and accomplished scholar, but he also happens to be a brilliant author.
Boston-Shrink More than 1 year ago
This is really 3 books in one: a fantastic account of the process of becoming a military officer, an unflinching look at the ever topical Eastern Front of Afghanistan, and rumination on the idea of achievement and family. This is not typical of other military memoirs I've read (I got an advance copy from a friend) as this shows a particular vulnerability from the author that I found very refreshing. I hope that the book (and it's lessons about the Afghan situation) get a wide audience.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I bought this on the recommendation of "every junior officer MUST read". And honestly, I wanted to like it, but as I got further and further into it the more I regretted it. The author is obviously very well read and that shows strongly in his writing, but he has a little too much chip on his shoulder on his perceived slights about his time at Oxford and his back and forth about whether he really wants to be a soldier. I would probably respect his book more if he had done more than his required 5 year stint post Academy, with about 18 months of actual unit leadership. All in all, Nathaniel Fick's One Bullet Away is a far better book if you're looking for junior leadership example.
Brian_Gillo More than 1 year ago
I am a West Point classmate of Craig's from the Class of 2000 and first met Craig in the summer of 1996 during Cadet Basic Training. We were in the same Beast platoon and I was initially amazed with the way in which Craig could memorize required Basic Training knowledge with ease and recite 6 or 7 paragraphs verbatim after only a small amount of studying. More than twelve years have passed and I find myself amazed again by Craig, this time by the captivating book he wrote. The Unforgiving Minute is a brilliantly told true story outlining Craig's experiences at West Point, Oxford, Ranger School, and in the Army which prepared him to lead soldiers in combat. As an Iraq veteran from OIF II, I can honestly say that Craig's account of combat and the 'unforgiving minute' are amazingly accurate and a must-read for soldiers preparing to go to combat or anyone who is curious about what it is really like to experience combat first-hand. Craig still has the same amazing memory as he did 12 years ago, and he was able to depict his memories with vivid descriptions and details that make readers feel as if they were there with him experiencing things along his side. A truly great read, it had my attention from the first sentence and kept it throughout the entire book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As our Nation fights two wars, the relevance of Mullaney's memoirs cannot be overstated. While reminding readers of the great sacrifices waged by our servicemen and women, Mullaney combines the magic of West Point and the harsh reality of war through the incredible journey of a young man, leader, and soldier. As a veteran, I found The Unforgiving Minute to be extremely realistic yet poetically written. The odyssey from student to soldier to veteran delivers acute details while conveying a story of duty, sacrifice, and love. A must read for current and future leaders of our nation and military. An invaluable education for citizens who want to understand why soldiers serve.
TheEdinburghOffice More than 1 year ago
One marathon reading session later, I feel deeply inspired by and honored to have read Craig Mullaney's courageously honest memoir. Peppered with literary allusions, Mullaney clearly illustrates the warrior-scholar connection as he relates his formal and military training from West Point through Oxford, Ranger school, and Afghanistan. His impressive resume is only overshadowed by his great depth of feeling, intensity, and patriotism. He wonders if he had an impact on students while teaching at the Naval Academy; if he taught as captivatingly as he writes, there cannot be any doubt that he did. The book should be required reading for all America's leaders within the Armed Forces for its moving account of one soldier's unusual yet edifying education.
mdebs More than 1 year ago
Craig Mullaney has taken a step back from his busy record of accomplishments to reflect on his educational journey, from Catholic school in Rhode Island to West Point, where his account of cadet life is almost Harry Potteresque in its adventures and arcane traditions. Next he journeys on to Oxford as a Rhodes scholar, to Afghanistan as an officer and back to the US as a Professor at the US Naval Academy. Mullaney is honest about the forces that motivated him to join the military including his troubled relationship with his father, and the challenges of translating education into action on the battlefield. More importantly he is insightful about the larger forces in military policy that prevent his tour of duty from being successful. The account is by turns poignant, funny and insightful, particularly Mullaney's traditional South Indian wedding to a karate black belt Indian-American doctor.
B.W.Leach More than 1 year ago
One look at the advance praise for this book tells you all you need to know: Craig Mullaney has created a memoir that qualifies as an instant classic in American literature. Mullaney's book towers head and shoulders about the rest of its genre and has genuine cross-over appear to a wide readership. It is a tale of love and loss, of patriotism and service, and of self-improvement. Mullaney's memoir is told with unflinching honesty and it conveys the essence of American values.

You cannot put this book down once you've started, and you cannot leave this book unchanged. If you haven't bought it yet, do so. If you're looking for a good gift, you've found it.
CJH_75 More than 1 year ago
As we enter into the seventh year of US involvement in Afghanistan, it is a good time to reflect on where we have been as a nation and the costs of war. Mullaney¿s book is a well timed addition to that national conversation and adds a thoughtful, on-the-ground voice to our understanding of the Afghan conflict. If this was all the book did it would be worth reading, but it also delivers a personal story of growth and leadership that inspires as the reader is whisked from Rhode Island to West Point to Ranger School to Oxford and through the rugged terrain of the Afghan-Pakistan border. The reader¿s investment of time will be aptly rewarded with this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Whether or not you support the military, and whether or not you support the military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan, you must read this book! This books tells what it is like RIGHT NOW for a young adult in the military. This is a present day coming of age story which will make you cry, ponder, cheer and burst your buttons with pride at being an American!
Citizen-Soldier More than 1 year ago
I just finished reading The Unforgiving Minute, and in it I have found long lost honor and inspiration I once had. As an ex-cadet of USMA, enjoy reading accounts of cadets and grads, which is why I decided to read Mullaney's. I was in for more than I thought. Mullaney had accomplish nearly everything I had wanted to achieve while a cadet. When I left West Point, having been got the best of by the mathematics and chemistry departments, I had lost much self respect and esteem. I've since picked myself up and contribute much to society, but I have alwys wondered "what if?" What if I had done better, graduated, and gone on to Ranger School? How would my life be different? Before finishing the book, I decided that I would do my best to pick up my dreams where I had left off. As a member of the Army Reserve, I am looking forward to changing to active duty to realize my dreams and aspirations. Mullaney's accounts of not only his achievements, but also his times of self-doubt and personal troubles made me realize that I may have veered off course, but I wasn't down for the count. The book reads almost as if Mullaney took the time to tell his story to you over a few pints. I recommend this book for all Americans, both military and civilians. Mullaney is what I feel defines the ideal American. We are privileged to have men and women such as he who are willing to put "responsibility before privilege". Go Army!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"The Unforgiving Minute" is certainly one of the best war memoirs to come out of the post-9/11 era. Craig Mullaney's keen sense of his surroundings and his attention to detail allowed him to portray his very poignant story in such a way that any one person can learn a myriad of lessons from his life experiences, military or otherwise. "The Unforgiving Minute" is both a phenomenal tribute to the sacrifice and hardship born by those military members who have served and are presently serving our country in Afghanistan and Iraq and an emotional story of the author's coming-of-age and constant quest for self-awareness. I highly recommend reading this book.
Mary_Stagis More than 1 year ago
Craig M. Mullaney's "The Unforgiving Minute: A Soldier's Education" is for anyone who has ever asked the question in life "What Am I Doing Here?" as he follows "the magnetic pull of West Point." Mullaney answers that question by taking the reader on his extraordinary and compelling journey, coming from a working-class, Irish Catholic family in Rhode Island, to his education as a Cadet at West Point, as a Rhodes Scholar at Lincoln College at Oxford, and through his training at Army Ranger School, and as a platoon leader in Afghanistan. He finds himself in his "unforgiving minute" in Afghanistan on a mission along the Pakistani border, where he is responsible for his soldiers' safety and lives. The "Unforgiving Minute" is surprisingly not only a soldier's story, but a son's story, a brother's story, and a love story, recounting his warm and funny romance with the doctor-in-training who he meets at Oxford. All of Mullaney's experiences come alive in his writing, culminating in his time in Afghanistan as he applies his education and training with his platoon and his superiors (who are not all impressed with his Oxford education and his desire to continue to challenge himself intellectually). This inspiring memoir is finely written, always intelligent, and at times, humorous and heart-breaking. It is a must read for any American who wants to understand what it means to be a soldier in these difficult times.
Jason_Sanders More than 1 year ago
As someone who grew up interested in war books and war movies, but who never witnessed the chaos of combat firsthand, Craig Mullaney's book offered an instant passageway for me to the modern soldier's experience. He provides so many ways for different readers to connect to the various parts of his life, that you'll find yourself saying the jargon just as if you were there in the WestPoint barracks or by the Pakistani border. The writing is rich in detail, from the oaken rooms of Oxford to the tundra of Fort Drum. More importantly, it is equally generous in honesty. You wrestle with the moral ambiguities of war so often glossed over by the pundits. And by the way this is a fabulous read as a story: of love, of loss, of courage, of sacrifice. Craig even shows us how to laugh. For those interested in figuring out how to seize the moment in our all too short lives, The Unforgiving Minute will offer new insights with every reading.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As a former company grade officer, all I can say is that taxpayers should be reimbursed for his education Glad I didn't have this ring knocker!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is an amazing read for anyone from teens on the bus to your grandpa in his workshop. Craig's vivid descriptions help you understand what was going through from Plebe year to Afghanistan. As someone who lost a cousin to the war, this helped me understand what it truly means to be a soldier. To The Top!
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