One Bullet Away: The Making of a Marine Officer
By Nathaniel Fick
Hardcover in dustjacket, 369 pages, photographs
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt October 2005
Dimensions: 6.0 x 1.3 x 9.0 inches
Nathan Fick was a classics major at Dartmouth when he volunteered for Marine Corps Officer Candidate School, and that is where his account begins. He subsequently graduated from The Basic School and the Infantry Office Course. His first assignment after completing his initial training was with the First Battalion, First Marines as the Weapons Platoon Officer of Bravo Company. He was deployed aboard the USS Dubuque (LPD-8) when the 9/11 attacks occurred. In Darwin for a port call, they were the closest Marine force to Afghanistan and sailed immediately.
Fick and his Marines went ashore in Afghanistan, moving quite a bit but seeing little direct combat. They rotated out of Afghanistan during the holidays, and Fick was offered the opportunity to train to be Marine Recon. More schools, more training. At the end was assignment to a Platoon in the First Recon Battalion. Instead of mission they trained for – observing objectives in small teams without being discovered – they were issued five HMMWVs. The platoon was to spearhead one of the major thrusts of the Invasion of Iraq.
The majority of the book is a day-by-day account of First Recon’s push though Iraq from the Platoon Leader’s perspective. Their story will be familiar to most readers, as correspondent Evan Wright rode with the platoon and his book, Generation Kill, was made into an HBO miniseries of the same name. I read both books together to compare the perspectives. Wright’s book focuses more on the personalities and banter of the Marines in the platoon, and things unusual to those unfamiliar with Marines or the military in general. Fick’s account is more thoughtful and less focused on tensions between the Marines and their leadership. Fick is an excellent writer who cares for his men, and the perspectives of history and politics are not lost on him. This is a great read which I can recommend without reservation.