One Bullet Away
The Making of a Marine Officer
Captain Nathaniel Fick
As the flyleaf of the book states, Captain Fick was a platoon Commander of the First Recon Battalion, who fought in Afghanistan and Iraq, who reveals how the Corps trains its elite and offers a point-blank account of twenty-first-century battle. He further says that if the Marines are “The Few, The Proud,” Recon Marines are the fewest and the proudest, with only one Marine in a hundred qualifies for Recon.
As a former Marine Corps Officer, from 1957 through 1962, before getting discharged due to an accidental incident at a Marine Corps demo, which wrecked my left knee, I have to say that I was stunned and astounded in regard to the schooling and the depth of reality training and education on both the tactical and strategic levels, in comparison to the training in my era. We both had to qualify for a Commission at the Officer’s Candidate School (a twelve week of boot camp Hell) prior to getting the bars of a Second Lieutenant. Having been duly Commissioned you are then sent to Basic School where you remain for eight months of learning how to be a Platoon Commander.
Captain Fick, was rushed to Afghanistan for his introduction to combat, where his vast skills as a Marine Officer allows him to make the correct solutions to the action which comes as a whirlwind, between days of boredom. He comes under fire for the first time as an infantry Officer. The title is enough to off set future candidates for this type of work. One Bullet Away, in simple terms, he explains that the Platoon Sergeant is only one bullet away from becoming the Platoon Commander, if the Lieutenant is hit. Ironically, Fick’s Platoon Sergeant was named Staff Sgt. Keith Marine, who must have been born to be in the Corps. The Lieutenant and the Staff Sergeant sat right down and in their first conversation sorted out each other’s attitudes and feelings of leadership and what it meant to both men. It was the beginning of a fine combination of discipline within their platoon and an ability to work together within their areas of expertise. That was a good thing because the 9/11 Terror attack was coming to fruition quickly and they would immediately go from maneuvers and training to fighting in Afghanistan. From the crushing of the Taliban and bringing freedom to Afghanistan, Lieutenant Fick and SSgt. Marine would become the leaders of a Recon platoon in Iraq, which would become the spearhead of the first troops to engage the Iraqis.
Former Captain Fink relates what battle at the front and often within the enemies presence and battle lines, day by day, in great detail, letting all who read this book a full close-up feeling of what war is like in the twenty-first-century. It is not only informative, but thrilling and exciting page after page. We get to watch this young man display the best side of the new teaching techniques, but also see him grow comfortable with command and making the decisions that save his men’s lives.
Buy the book as fast as you can get to a bookstore. He is literate, engrossing, and never dull, even when he is discussing the boring side of war. Former Marines will finish the book without putting it down. I wore out the batteries in my book light three times, unable to stop turning the page, since I came to know everyone in the Platoon and wanted them to succeed and not fall in battle. This is a Four Devil Dog book; it doesn’t get better than that.
The author, Nathaniel Fick, joined the Corps after receiving a B.A. in classics from Dartmouth in 1999 and left the Corps with the rank of Captain. He is now in a dual-degree program at the Harvard Business School and the Kennedy School of Government. I would vote for him in a New York minute.
Ed McGrath, Hanshi-Go
Grand Master, the Art of Isshin-ryu