Stepping up my game a little here. This will be my third Book Recollection in four months. Definitely an approval over my last drought. A trip to Vegas was a big help in getting through this offering – nothing like sitting by the pool in the Vegas sun reading a book and getting grapes delivered to you by the help. Of course that is probably more of Linda’s doing than mine but got’s me sum tasty grapes anyway (rumor has it Vegas sun does something to your brain). If you recall from the last recollection (link here) I alluded that a superior offering was forthcoming. Without further delay I bring you One Bullet Away: The Making of a Marine Officer. This particular work was everything that I had hoped for with American Sniper and then some. From all the other reads this author (Nathaniel Fick) has come the closest to matching my pedestal on which sits Lone Survivor. It has been so long now I am unable to remember what prompted me to put this on my reading list but somewhere, somehow this book caught my attention (likely due to being a New York Times Bestseller but it might have actually shown up as a recommended read in Entertainment Weekly). It doesn’t really matter where – just go out and get this book if you want an informative and compelling read on what it takes to be a Marine officer. Captain Fick was (or maybe “is” – not sure you lose your rank when you leave the militarily honorably) served as a Marine infantry officer and became a Captain in the elite First Reconnaissance Battalion. New to me was that the Marines do not have a designated elite division electing not to participate in the special operations command – “there will be no special Marines.” Frequent readers know a lot of this blogger’s time has been spent pouring over books on the Seals and Special Forces units – the Marines were a new branch to explore. Turns out there is an unwritten elite within the Marine ranks and that (as you probably guessed) is the Recon Unit. From this read, these soldiers truly live up to their motto Swift, Silent and Deadly. They are the tip of the spear and thrive there through skill, determination and all the firepower they can muster into the field. Based on Nathaniel’s accounts the Silent part often takes backseat to the Swift and Deadly as he recounts time after time driving their Humvees directly into the heart of the enemy and establishing superiority. While on the subject of deadly, my mouth dropped open when I read that “Marksmen” are actually the LOWEST on the shooter qualification standard – “Sharpshooter” is above that and “Expert” beyond that. As Nathaniel points out, you don’t want to introduce yourself to the men you are going to lead into battle as just a Marksmen.
Captain Fick puts you in the passenger seat as he takes the battle to Afghanistan and then on to the hot sun of Iraq. Much like Lone Survivor, the author does an excellent job of painting the situation and recounting the actions taken. More importantly, Fick takes you inside his thought process, laying out the options, correlating his training, taking you through the determined action and then assessing the results. I can’t complement the author enough on his candidness admitting his mistakes and giving due credit to his team. Absent was the sense of pure cockiness so evident in the American Sniper book. Nathanial was trained to be the best and characterized his superior actions as just doing his job. This is a must read if you want to understand what it takes to be a Marine officer, what you have to endure to be considered a Marine, the expectations superiors place on you when lead men into combat and what those soldiers rely on to make it out alive. If you are like me, you always ask yourself “could I do that”, “could I make it through that experience”, “do I have the drive and determination to endure the hardships imposed on officer candidates and ultimately be effective in the field. In this specific situation the answer is clearly NO (as the ego deflates). I might be able to make it through the infantry training (with a hell of a lot of luck) but the Recon training would do me in – even if I could make it through some of it, the torture preparedness would be my Uncle. That chapter gave me nightmares for weeks. Adding to that, Fick provided a side of war that is often glossed over in similar works – the theater of the gruesome. The damage that today’s instruments of war can inflict on the human body is horrific at best and hammers home the difficulties soldiers must face as they assimilate back into society. As a hint, they literally spend time in emergency rooms during their training to become desensitized to the scenes they will experience in action – not to mention an entire class on Killology to get them mentally prepared for the “shock”. Let’s all be thankful there are individuals out there willing to put country first and body second. To all those we owe a a great deal of respect and unlimited gratitude. Well done Nathaniel, well done!
Hit the jump to read about the MANY takeaways from this read