A memorable cinematic passage is contained in the movie Full
Metal Jacket, wherein a new squad of marine recruits arrives at
boot camp and is immediately dressed down, singly and collectively,
by their drill sergeant. The episode is so dramatic that one almost
forgets that the paramount reason behind the rough treatment
afforded to the recruits is to decondition their self-preservative
reflexive actions for battle, while simultaneously making them
tough enough and hard enough to be still standing at the end of the
day. ONE BULLET AWAY: The Making of a Marine Officer, completes the
circle, and thensome.
Author Nathaniel Fick is among the best of the best, a former
captain in the United States Marine Corps First Recon Battalion.
ONE BULLET AWAY is Fick's unflinching account of his recruitment
into the Marines, his advancement, and his service on the fronts of
Afghanistan and Iraq. He gives the reader an up-close and personal
view of what it is like to be a soldier. One element of military
training that is often lost upon the layman is the importance of
the history of warfare and of soldiering; as Fick notes here,
marines learn from the mistakes of those who have gone ahead. Every
marine accordingly has an obligation to ensure that the sacrifices
of those who have preceded them are not in vain.
Fick's account of his role in modern warfare, which constitutes the
balance of the book, is anecdotal at its most interesting, ranging
from accounts of bravery, courage, and compassion to the occasional
stupidity of commanders for whom the battlefield is more of a
concept than reality. One comes away from this memoir with the
feeling that, as with most things, it is miraculous when any
project proceeds to completion successfully. In ONE BULLET AWAY,
however, the stakes are much higher.
Fick elected to forego re-upping with the Marines, an
understandable decision considering the events recounted here and
their personal aftermath for him. ONE BULLET AWAY is a highly
readable, personal memoir that rings and resonates with bravery,
clarity and truth.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 13, 2011