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One Bullet Away: The Making of a Marine Officerby Nathaniel Fick
Possibly unequaled in its detail and candor, One Bullet Away takes readers to the depths of Marine life, in peacetime and in war, all the while avoiding the clichés generally associated with military memoirs. Nathaniel Fick's bracing and articulate voice is a welcome addition to the genre. Highly recommended.
Synopses & Reviews
If the Marines are the few, the proud, Recon Marines are the fewest and the proudest. Only one Marine in a hundred qualifies for the Reconnaissance Battalion, 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 deadlist 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 truths, but it is an ultimately inspiring account of mastering the art of war.
"The global war on terrorism has spawned some excellent combat narratives — mostly by journalists. Warriors, like Marine Corps officer Fick, bring a different and essential perspective to the story. A classics major at Dartmouth, Fick joined the Marines in 1998 because he 'wanted to go on a great adventure... to do something so hard that no one could ever talk shit to me.' Thus begins his odyssey through the grueling regimen of Marine training and wartime deployments — an odyssey that he recounts in vivid detail in this candid and fast-paced memoir. Fick was first deployed to Afghanistan, where he saw little combat, but his Operation Freedom unit, the elite 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, helped spearhead the invasion of Iraq and 'battled through every town on Highway 7' from Nasiriyah to al Kut. (Rolling Stone writer Evan Wright's provocative Generation Kill is based on his travels with Fick's unit.) Like the best combat memoirs, Fick's focuses on the men doing the fighting and avoids hyperbole and sensationalism. He does not shrink from the truth — however personal or unpleasant. 'I was aware enough,' he admits after a firefight, 'to be concerned that I was starting to enjoy it.' Agent, E.J. McCarthy. (Oct.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Far more than a glory-soaked collection of war stories, this memoir proves the ideal of the scholar-soldier as alive and well. One can hardly imagine a finer boots-on-the-ground chronicle of this open-ended conflict, no matter how long it may last." Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
"Fick's memoir provides an incomparable analysis of the training an officer must undergo and the standards that must be met....Fick's narrative eschews tough, vulgar language and instead deploys an intelligent, sensitive descriptive prose." Library Journal
"[Fick] gives the reader an up-close and personal view of what it is like to be a soldier....One Bullet Away is a highly readable, personal memoir that rings and resonates with bravery, clarity and truth." BookReporter.com
"Fick's editor might have suggested starting in the middle of a firefight in Iraq, and then backtracking to the beginning....One Bullet Away relies heavily on the reader caring about Fick the man, and we could all get to know him quicker in combat." San Diego Union Tribune
"One Bullet Away is a singular literary achievement, a gripping account of 21st century war by a 21st century warrior." Evan Wright, author of Generation Kill
"A brilliant, no-bullshit piece of under-the-helmet reporting." Steven Pressfield, author of Gates of Fire and The Virtues of War
"This is one of the best books on the Marine Corps in a long time....Terrific." Tom Ricks, author of Making the Corps and A Soldier's Duty, military correspondent, Washington Post
"Fick's descriptive and exacting writing...guarantees One Bullet Away a place in the war memoir hall of fame." USA Today
"Everyone who cynically dismisses 'the rules of war,' saying, 'there are no rules,' should read this book." Jonathan Shay, M.D., Ph.D., senior advisor for ethics and leadership, U.S. Army, and author of Achilles in Vietnam: Combat Trauma and the Undoing of Character and Odysseus in America
"The psychological distance between those who serve and fight, and those who publish and pontificate, is vast. Nathaniel Fick has closed the gap considerably with this fine book." Robert D. Kaplan, author of Imperial Grunts: The American Military on the Ground
If the Marines are and#147;the few, the proud,and#8221; Recon Marines are the fewest and the proudest. Nathaniel Fickand#8217;s career begins with a hellish summer at Quantico, after his junior year at Dartmouth. He leads a platoon in Afghanistan just after 9/11 and advances to the pinnacleand#151;Reconand#151; two years later, on the eve of war with Iraq. His vast skill set puts him in front of the front lines, leading twenty-two Marines into the deadliest conflict since Vietnam. He vows to bring all his men home safely, and to do so heand#8217;ll need more than his top-flight education. Fick unveils the process that makes Marine officers such legendary leaders and shares his hard-won insights into the differences between military ideals and military practice, which can mock those ideals.
In this deeply thoughtful account of what itand#8217;s like to fight on todayand#8217;s front lines, Fick reveals the crushing pressure on young leaders in combat. Split-second decisions might have national consequences or horrible immediate repercussions, but hesitation isnand#8217;t an option. One Bullet Away never shrinks from blunt truths, but ultimately it is an inspiring account of mastering the art of war.
About the Author
Nathaniel Fick, after receiving a B.A. in classics from Dartmouth in 1999, served in the Marines' elite First Recon Battalion (the analogue of the Navy's SEALs or Army's Delta Force). He saw action in Afghanistan and Iraq before leaving the Corps as a captain. He is now in a dual-degree program at Harvard's Business School and Kennedy School of Government.
Table of Contents
I. P E A C E 1
II. WA R 75
III. A F T E R M AT H 359
Authors Note and Acknowledgments 371
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