|I've just finished a first read of "One Bullet Away" by Nathaniel Fick. It is an autobiographical account of his time in the Marine Corps from 1998 to 2004. The book covers his training and command time as platoon leader in 1/1 and 1st Recon. He participated in the Afghan and Iraq invasions.
Captain Frick gives a compelling description of his officer training, both at Quantico and as a platoon leader. He describes OCS as a test of determination and belief in the Corps. But it is also a time for Sergeant Instructors to inculcate the moral messages central to leadership in the Corps. The Basic Officers and Infantry Officers courses are described, and they surprised me as being much more sophisticated and nuanced than I thought they were.
Captain Fick uses accounts of peacetime training to illustrate the dynamics of unit deadership. He describes the subtle dynamic between officers and NCO's; how he worked with his Platoon Sergeants to establish that basic bond of trust at the heart of leadership. he describes his good fortune at having an effective, unconventional and insightful company commander to follow and learn from.
Captain Frick states that arduous training is the heart of military readiness. He quotes the aphorism about Roman soldiers, that their exercises were bloodless battles and their battles were bloody exercises. He states that demanding training builds unit cohesiveness through shared hardships. This cohesion is critical in the stress of combat. He states that demanding training also prepares individuals for the demands of combat, and he demonstrates this through examples in his wartime experiences.
Captain Fick describes the Afghan and Iraq invasions from a platoon leader's perspective. He talks about his leadership tasks of being coach, confessor and intercessor without seeming to be anything but the platoon commander. He talks about the balance between the twin tasks of accomplishing the mission and taking care of his troops; above all: keeping them alive. One bullet away, as it were.
Captain Fick's book has insights on two controversial issues. In Afghanistan, his battalion was scheduled to assault Tora Bora. He states that he was told that USMC perticipation in the assault was cancelled because of the fear of heavy casualties "at the lighest levels." In the Iraq invasion, after the collapse of Sadaam's army, American forces kept hopping from site to site. He felt that the units should have established long term presences, built up relationships and reestablished civil authority. There are some other insights, but these are (I think) the most controversial.
Captain Nathaniel Fick found that he could not easily adjust to a wartime command to peacetime military routine, and he left the Corps in 2004. His book is compelling, a very good read.