Book Review – When the Tempest Gathers

When The Tempest Gathers by Andrew Milburn

A new book by Andrew Milburn is a war memoir that covers a 31-year long journey in the Marine Corps. It is the story of a Marine who begins his career as an infantry officer with a deployment to Mogadishu, Somalia and ends it as a senior officer in special operations. Much of the book is about the last two decades of fighting in the Global War on Terror.

Milburn recounts his time on deployments to Somalia, Colombia, Ethiopia, Liberia, Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, and a few other places. During his career as a Marine, he commanded at the platoon, company, battalion, regiment, and Special Operations Joint Task Force levels. He retired in 2019 as the Chief of Staff of Special Operations Command Central (SOCCENT).

His story isn’t limited to the war zone – it also provides insight into the training and hard work conducted by members of the military when stateside. He also informs us on the sacrifices and hardships that families endure during a military career.

The book provides a look at Marine Corps culture and the experience of a Marine’s career on the battlefield and elsewhere. With three decades in uniform, Milburn has a lot to share. Much of the book’s action takes place in Iraq – where Milburn experienced some significant combat time. His detailed accounts of the battles he and his fellow Marines fought in are riveting. In addition, he gives the reader some insight into the formation and growth of Marine Forces Special Operations Command or MARSOC.

Milburn shares his perspective on nation-building in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other places around the world. He addresses the leadership failure of senior military commanders and the elite political class that has guided our political and military strategy over the past two decades. Or, perhaps, the lack of a coherent overarching strategy.

This is a good book to learn about (or refresh your memory) about the Marine Corps, MARSOC, the decades-long fight against terrorism, and life in the military. 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.


When The Tempest Gathers: From Mogadishu to the Fight Against ISIS, A Marine Special Operations Commander at War, by Andrew Milburn, published by Pen & Sword, 2020. Available at

About John Friberg 201 Articles
John Friberg is the Editor and Publisher of SOF News. He is a retired Command Chief Warrant Officer (CW5 180A) with 40 years service in the U.S. Army Special Forces with active duty and reserve components.