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When the Tempest Gathers (ePub)

From Mogadishu to the Fight Against ISIS, a Marine Special Operations Commander at War

Colour eBooks Military > Post-WWII Warfare P&S History > By Century > 21st Century

By Col Andrew Milburn, Foreword by Bing West
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
File Size: 29.3 MB (.epub)
Pages: 316
Illustrations: 23 colour illustrations
ISBN: 9781526750563
Published: 3rd February 2020


£4.99 Print price £25.00

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  • 'This is quite simply the finest war memoir to emerge from the last two decades of constant fighting' - Bing West, New York Times bestselling author of One Million Steps: A Marine Platoon at War
  • Articles as featured by The Star, Canada’s largest daily newspaper;
  1. 'Daesh is Doomed', Canada's Top General Says During Dramatic Visit to Iraq
  2. How Canadian special forces helped stop a massive Daesh offensive
  3. Canada’s special forces face the risk of Daesh gas attacks in Iraq
  • 3 part interview with author Col Andrew Milburn, USMC (ret) via All Marine Radio.
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'This is quite simply the finest war memoir to emerge from the last two decades of constant fighting.' - Bing West, New York Times bestselling author of One Million Steps: A Marine Platoon at War and Call Sign Chaos.

These are the combat experiences of the first Marine to command a special operations task force, recounted against a backdrop of his journey from raw Second Lieutenant to seasoned Colonel and Task Force Commander; from leading Marines through the streets of Mogadishu, Baghdad, Fallujah and Mosul to directing multi-national special operations forces in a dauntingly complex fight against a formidable foe.

The journey culminates in the story’s centerpiece: the fight against ISIS in which the author is able to use the lessons of his harsh apprenticeship to lead the SOF task force under his command to hasten the Caliphate’s eventual demise.

Milburn has an unusual background for a US Marine, and this is no ordinary war memoir. Very few personal accounts of war cover such a wide breadth of experience, or with so discerning a perspective. He has a keen eye and a level of perception surprising for someone caught up in the midst of the fray. As Bing West comments: “His exceptional skill is telling each story of battle and then knitting them into a coherent whole. By the end of the book, the reader understands what happened on the ground in the wars against terrorists over the past twenty years.”

Milburn tells his extraordinary story with self-effacing candor, describing openly his personal struggles with the isolation of command, post-combat trauma and family tragedy. And with the skill and insight of a natural story teller, he makes the reader experience what it’s like to lead those who fight America’s wars.

"Milburn uses an effortless style, navigating the reader from Marine Corps Boot Camp to Somalia to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan through Special Operations Task Force operations against ISIS. Insightful details and meaningful anecdotes are interspersed throughout, adding the right amount of context without impeding the overall story."

Special Operations Journal

"Milburn’s experiences provide a sobering exploration of the complex and dangerous nature of being an advisor to Iraqi forces."

Marine Corps History

By the end of the book you will have an appreciation of the hardship of military life for the service members and their families, be exposed to a narrative about the harsh reality of combat and ponder the need for politicians and senior military officers to be more rigorous in the debate about the purpose of future wars.

Click here for the full review

SOF News

Book excerpt as featured by

Leatherneck, June 2020

This book should be taken as a serious work, and added to your ‘must have’ lists, to be read alongside McFate’s Goliath and Kilcullen’s The Dragons and The Snakes, because Milburn has lived and recorded what others only frame academically.

Any thinking British military person should take this book and examine Milburn’s experiences and ideas.

Read the full review here

Wavell Room

The story of a journey from raw 2nd Lt to Colonel commanding Special Forces Task Force. This memoir of a Special Forces commander holds the readers attention to the last page . – Most Highly Recommended.

Read the full review here


A true warriors account of warfare written in a modest yet engaging manner.

This is easy to pick up but very hard to put down.

Get this book and read for a true warriors account t.

Richard Domoney-Saunders

When the Tempest Gathers is a remarkable memoir on many levels. It is full of action and incident. Milburn has you on the edge of your seat as you follow him around the chaotic modern battlefield, fighting enemies you rarely see but when you do it is often up close and personal. Milburn’s account is full of tactical insight, as you might expect, but he is also an expert through experience on the psychology of combat. In addition, Milburn weighs up America’s allies and enemies with nuance rather than discrimination, which is refreshing, and he is scathing on US policy in Iraq. Finally, Milburn brings out the personal and emotional side of being a soldier, and you will see why he refers to his ‘gallery of ghosts’ that still haunt him. As a writer, Milburn is a well-read man, able to set his experiences into a literary context as well as the pragmatic; he is a throwback in some ways to the warrior poets of the Twentieth Century’s conflicts. This memoir will stand the test of time and be read and understood by soldiers in the future. It is a pity that poor editing let him down on a few jarring occasions, but that does not detract from the excellence of Milburn’s memoir. 10/10

Read the full review here

Beating Tsundoku

Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "When the Tempest Gathers: From Mogadishu to the Fight Against ISIS, a Marine Special Operations Commander at War" is a unique and especially recommended addition to the personal reading lists of all dedicated military history buffs and a core addition to community, college, and university library American Military History collections and supplemental studies reading lists.

Read the full review here

Midwest Book Review

The author has a story to tell, and this is it. The prose is light, descriptive and engaging with, showing perhaps his English education, a dry humour and tendency to understate. It is eminently readable and as jargon and acronym free as any book dealing with the military can be. The vignettes of his colleagues are deft and cliché free. It is a pleasure to read.

In the highly competitive environment of USMC Infantry he rose to command a battalion and beyond. At every level of command he was tested in combat and proven highly competent. His insights of fear, leadership and fatigue are candid but restrained and the toll on him understated – very English. At one point as the commander of seven advisers to an Iraqi battalion he had to personally lead every building entry. Pretty punchy stuff for a major.

The author pulls no punches in his description of the mess of Iraq; the constant disconnects between orders and reality: “Don’t expose yourself but get things done.” The higher military and political command echelons do not come out of this well. That may be a shock to no-one, but the author’s clear vision and dry prose make his points forcefully.

This book is quite simply excellent.

Read the full review here

Army Rumour Service (ARRSE)

Article: 'Mogadishu to Mosul: A look at a Marine special operations commander’s 3-decade journey' as featured by

Marine Corps Times - words by Todd South

Andy Milburn provides a work that seems to bring a sense of pride to what many call the “Long Wars”, some even the “Lost Wars.” Colonel Milburn dictates the story I feel many veterans, myself included, of those wars wished to be conveyed.
Milburn’s work is the perfect 10/10 in my opinion. It will be added to the list of quintessential memoirs for the men and women who have served during that time period.

Ryan Pallas, Marine Corps Association

After reading this powerful and beautifully written memoir, indispensable for understanding how a warrior engages in military combat, one can’t help but wonder if perhaps a movie or a television series based on it might be next.

Washington Times

Featured 'On the bookshelf' with Neil Smith

Wargames Illustrated, February 2020

Eloquently written. Though no one will be able to understand what Col Milburn experienced first hand the information depicted in his memoir made it effortless. I could not put the book down until reading in its entirety.

Amazon Customer, Carly knutson

I know Andy as a dear friend. Reading this memoir touched all of the emotions in me. Laughter, tears and an immense pride to say that I know this brave, smart, funny, strong Marine, husband and father. It's definintely worth your time to read this well written, honest portrayal of what it's like to be a Marine during war time. Definitely feel like this book should be made into a movie. Proud of you, Andy and Jessica, for all you've had to face and you're still together.

Amazon Customer, Gretchen Barnett

A brutally honest, stirring, and insightful grunt’s eye view.of how America’s fights since 1992 were waged. Col. Andy Milburn’s book is at the very top of memoirs of America’s 21st century overseas engagements.

Amazon Customer, kerrsmom

While Andy's book is capturing the attention of fellow men and women from the military; I would like to add that this book is as interesting--and as important--for those who have never served. So many of us do not have first hand knowledge of the military (or even second hand knowledge). This book, provides a clear and colorful picture of what the true culture of the military is today. It is a great read. Andy Milburn is a great writer who allows the reader a peek inside the family of men and women who serve.

Amazon Customer, Anne Jones

As a veteran, I read many books by fellow veterans. I can say without hesitation that Andy Milburn's "When the Tempest Gathers" is the finest compilation I've seen of life as an officer in the post-Desert Storm era. With complete lack of ego Andy recounts tales, both harrowing and humorous, of his life. From his first mission in Somalia to his last mission in Iraq, the book traces a career that while resonate with fellow officers, current and retired. Andy tackles difficult issues head on, from ineffective senior leadership to dealing with personal and professional failures. "Servant leader" and "purposeful life" are two phrases thrown around a lot; Andy encompasses both. Any junior officer looking for a template for effective leadership must read this book.

Amazon Customer, Brett Mott

After the Marines (2006-2010 serving in Iraq & Afghanistan) our son got an MBA from Harvard and worked for McKinsey Consulting for 3 years, then in publicly held and privately held companies in management positions. Clint has often said the Colonel Milburn is the Best Leader he has ever worked for. I got to know Colonel Milburn when Clint was a Marine Officer. Colonel Milburn is a Real Deal Leader, as Jim Collins describes as Level-5 Leadership in his book "Good to Great". He motivated Clint and his teams going through very difficult challenges including Life and Death situations in War. Our son is probably alive today because of Colonel Milburn's leadership.

I read over 250 military history books when Clint was a Marine Officer and I've read many more since then. Colonel Milburn's new book is in my Top-10 list!

Amazon Customer, Phil Eubanks

Click here to listen

The Joe Piscopo Show, Omny.fm

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I love anything military, from ancient Greece to modern day, so this was a must read for me. Fantastically written, I felt like I was in the book myself. Well done!

NetGalley, Stephen Walker

Milburn has constructed a real tour de force of recent military history, strongly written and executed with the dedication and attention to detail you would expect from a Marine Special Operations Commander.


A good read that I was excited to gain access to and it hit a sweet spot in this genre. A story about the author's time in the military where he was part of a lot of the conflicts the West has fought in the last 20 years. The author has a very easy style about him and makes the book very readable. He does not try to sugarcoat anything which makes his story all the more believable. He may have not been the most conventional of military men but seemed to care about his men and the mission.
Thank you Netgalley, by Col Andrew Milburn, Pen & Sword and Pen & Sword Military for the ARC for my honest review.

NetGalley, Brian Miller

Sincere humility and at times painful honesty are the hall marks of this genuine tale of the triumphs and the challenges of leadership in today’s wars. From the loneliness that comes with the responsibility of making life-and-death decisions, to the fierce friendships formed among those together in the fire, and to the heavy tax that long separations from family and home levy on us, this is most importantly a compelling and completely authentic story.

Marine Corps Gazette

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

"When the Tempest Gathers" is a very different type of book than most military memoirs I have read. It's much better, in fact, I would put it at the top of my favorites.
The author, Andrew Milburn is an excellent writer. His intelligence and passion are way above the norm. Thirty two years in the Marine Corps! What a patriot. And his descriptive abilities are outstanding. While many authors can (almost) make you feel like you are in the event, Milburn's ability is to make you feel like you are INSIDE his head! The result is sometimes actually frightening. You are seeing the battles as if he is wearing a Go-Pro camera, and you are actually reading his mind.
The author did not come to the Marine Corp via the "normal" route. Far from it. He is the son of a British father and American mother, and was born in Hong Kong. He attended English boarding schools, went to St Paul's School in London (studying philosophy), then University College in London, and finally studied law at Westminster University. All followed by a crazy journey to see a girl in Australia, via travel through Europe and Iran. How he ended up in the USMC is a great story, but I don't want to spoil it for you.
Starting out as an infantryman (another great story), over the course of the next three decades he found himself in Somalia, Columbia, Ethiopia, Liberia, Iraq, Libya, back to Iraq and on to Afghanistan. Worked his way up the ranks until he commanded a Special Operations Joint Task Force. The man has seen it all!
I found myself taking notes throughout the book. Just to reread later. Way too many to list here (besides, it would ruin the story for you).
Suffice it to say that he covered his thoughts on the Iraqi Army; on combat stress; the beginnings of ISIS (and why it happened); the contrasts in different country's military's (especially interesting was the different principle of mission command from Canada to the United States). He covers his feeling about the top heavy command in the United States (never in the field of human conflict have so many invested so much, to lead so few). I enjoyed his explanations on various Marine Corp doctrines. Finally, I really appreciated his thoughts on our current administration's policy of killing the top people of an organization, and how he would do it differently. If only from his lips to the President's ears!
Milburn's battle scenes were incredible. But what I found unusual was his willingness to share his personal feelings, doubts, and regrets. Not at all the typical Marine.
I wish that I could meet the author. I feel that one couldn't help but improve one's self just by being around him.
I highly recommend this book!

NetGalley, Randal White

Milburn is a very good writer, his rather unusual education (trained to be a lawyer in England) really infuses his powers of description and pacing. He gives an unglossed account of his career with the marines and every bit of blood, sweat, tears, dust and grief is given a good airing.

At no point does the book lose its way or become boring, it maintained my interest throughout and the cast of side characters he meets along the way certainly add spice to proceedings.

I thoroughly recommend this book for anyone with even the slightest interest in military history. Milburn, rather helpfully, names books and authors of military history who cover some of the events he speaks of. I found this very useful as some of these books he mentions I have never heard of.

An excellent book.

NetGalley, Brian Hamilton

You don’t need to be ex or serving in the military to enjoy this book, it’s been many many years (and a different army) since I served but this is a great book with candid honesty and emotion

NetGalley, Paul Sparks

When the Tempest Gathers is the best combat memoir to emerge from the modern battlefield. Milburn’s astonishing Marine career took him from Somalia in 1992 to Syria In 2018 and everywhere in between, including traditional infantry and unique advisor and special operations commands that resulted in fighting for the same Iraqi cities years apart, again and again. The result is a searing perspective on endless Middle East combat that has no peer.

Owen West, former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations

Top special ops Marine who fought with Kurds blasts Trump move in Syria as betrayal

NBC News

This is quite simply the finest war memoir to emerge from the last two decades of constant fighting.

Bing West, New York Times bestselling author of One Million Steps: A Marine Platoon at War and Call Sign Chaos

About Col Andrew Milburn

COL. ANDREW 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. He and his wife Jessica live in Tampa, Florida with their two children and a coterie of rescued dogs.

About Bing West

A New York Times bestselling author. 

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