One Bullet Away: The Making of a Marine Officer
Nathaniel C. Fick
A former captain in the Marines' First Recon Battalion, who fought in Afghanistan and Iraq, reveals how the Corps trains its elite and offers a point-blank account of twenty-first-century battle.
Featuring: Nathaniel Fick
Add to Wish List
If the Marines are "the few, the proud," Recon Marines are
the fewest and the proudest. Only one Marine in a hundred
qualifies for Recon, charged with working clandestinely,
often behind enemy lines. Fick's training begins with a
hellish summer at Quantico, after his junior year at
Dartmouth, and advances to the pinnacle--Recon--four years
later, on the eve of war with Iraq. Along the way, he
learns to shoot a man a mile away, stays awake for seventy-
two hours straight, endures interrogation and torture at
the secretive SERE course, learns to swim with Navy SEALs,
masters the Eleven Principles of Leadership, and much more.
His vast skill set puts him in front of the front lines,
leading twenty-two Marines into the deadliest conflict
since Vietnam. He vows he will bring all his men home
safely, and to do so he'll need more than his top-flight
education. He'll need luck and an increasingly clear vision
of the limitations of his superiors and the missions they
assign him. Fick unveils the process that makes Marine
officers such legendary leaders and shares his hard-won
insights into the differences between the military ideals
he learned and military practice, which can mock those
ideals. One Bullet Away never shrinks from blunt
but it is an ultimately inspiring account of mastering the
art of war.
From the author
By Nathaniel C. Fick
Author of One
Bullet Away: The Making of a Marine
Officer (Houghton Mifflin, 2005)
I didnâ€™t intend to write a book. My
second combat tour after 9/11 ended on June 3, 2003, when I
stepped off a plane in San Diego and into the arms of my
waiting family. All I wanted was to put Iraq behind me.
That night, over an awkward dinner, my mother asked the
inevitable, impossible question. "So, how was the war?"
"Fine," I answered.
Where to start? I couldnâ€™t talk about my
wounded friends without choking up, couldnâ€™t remember our
dead enemies without turning sullen, and couldnâ€™t explain
that all of this, in context, had somehow been fun.
So I didnâ€™t talk about it.
But stories untold are corrosive. They
simmer, and sometimes spill over. I didnâ€™t sleep at night,
couldnâ€™t stay awake during the day, and failed to
understand when long-time friends treated me like a
I started to write. In the beginning, I
only wanted to put the stories on paper before they faded
from memory. Reading my battle maps and patrol logbooks in
the safety of a Washington apartment was a visceral
experience. As desert sand spilled from the creases of
folded papers, I stood on a bridge in Muwaffiqiya, with
tracers slicing through the dark. A bloody handprint yanked
me back to a disastrous mission in a town called Qalat
Sukkar. It was raw and immediate, and my words poured onto
The stories could do what I could not:
explain to my family and friends why the kid who went to
Afghanistan was not the man who returned from Iraq. I wrote
all the things I couldnâ€™t say over dinner, the whole web of
pride and sorrow that made my war so much more
As I wrote through the spring and summer
of 2004, my platoon returned to Iraq for another tour. On
April 7th, a Wednesday, my replacement died in a
firefight near Ramadi. Maybe, I thought, these stories
could give a voice to those without one. Maybe any soldier
or Marine could hand them to a father or a wife or a
roommate and say, "Here, if you want to know what itâ€™s like
over there, read this."
I kept writing, and went back to school
to get a masterâ€™s degree in international security policy
at Harvard. I spent each day surrounded by people
interested in public policy, people who should have been
debating and evaluating and remembering the war in
Iraq. But they werenâ€™t. It didnâ€™t touch them.
Pro-war. Anti-war. War for freedom. War
for oil. The politics were a luxury I couldnâ€™t afford. I
got along with neoconservatives and anti-war protestors
alike. The people who confounded me were the apathetic
middle, the thoughtless souls who sauntered through their
days without remembering the 180,000 Americans fighting in
Iraq and Afghanistan. I was ashamed sometimes, while caught
up in my comfortable academic life, to find myself one of
I wrote this book for myself, but I
published it for others. It isnâ€™t political, because the
daily life of a soldier or Marine isnâ€™t political. That
life is dirty and dangerous and tragic and noble. I
hope "One Bullet Away" evokes the emotion and humanity of
combat service. I hope it prompts more questions than it
No comments posted.
Registered users may leave comments.
Log in or register now!