One Bullet Away: The Making of a Marine Officer
1. For a budding marine warrior, Nathaniel Fick could not have chosen to join the profession of arms at a more appropriate time. In the summer of 1998, Fick took on the challenge of the Officer Candidate School in Quantico, Virginia and in this book has recounted the training challenges and experiences which moulded him into a Marine. Marine Officer training is as meticulous as it is intense with only the best candidates destined to make the grade as infantry specialists. During his infantry training, Fick recalls some of the events in the lead up to the War on Terror, such as the terrorist attacks on the American Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and the attack on the USS Cole in Yemen. He vividly recalls the 9/11 attack and its effect, which propelled the United States and coalition forces into war, soon after which Fick took up his first appointment as a platoon commander with the First Marine Regiment. The War on terror was to consume the next two years of his life and his call up for action signifies the major transition in the book from peacetime training to his experiences of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
2. The contemporary nature of this book is its most desirable quality, with the ongoing events of the insurgency in Afghanistan and Iraq still very much at the forefront of world events. Since many memoirs of this type are written by senior retired military commanders, the challenges and dilemmas of a young marine officer provides a unique insight into the life of the platoon commander and his men on the modern day battlefield. The author successfully avoids the clichés of the stereotyped marine character depicted in movies such as Full Metal Jacket and provides a valuable insight into the core motivations that drives a Marine, in the most difficult of circumstances.
3. Acronyms are an aspect of service writing that military personnel are very accustomed to. Unfortunately acronyms punctuate his writing, which to the uninitiated may be somewhat distracting, as there is no glossary by which one can rapidly refer to in the book. Yet despite this flaw, he is descriptive, yet forthright, which is highlighted by the fact that there are only three major chapters to the book; Peace, War and Aftermath. Fick’s style is by no means self congratulating as he exposes his own shortfalls as a military commander and is candid about mistakes committed by his peers and commanders. This gives a balanced perspective to the book and lends credence to the author as an unbiased narrator of events.
4. Fick takes the reader on a complete wartime journey with the basic fighting unit of the Marine Corps; the infantry platoon. To the authors credit the harrowing events which were to blood his platoon have been described in a way that is completely engaging throughout and vividly highlights the special bond that exists in a small combat unit serving under fire.
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