Friday, September 28, 2007

One Bullet Away, The Making of a Marine Officer by Nathaniel Fick

A couple of reviews, many more available online elsewhere:

The difference between a Marine platoon sergeant and the platoon leader, or as he notes in another part, the difference between a platoon leader and a company commander (and so on).

I, despite all the training and the fact that I volunteered for all of this (Army, not Marines- I was too picky about jobs and dates- or too chicken) back in 1991, have never fancied myself a "warrior." I love my country and am willing to make some sacrifices for it, and if necessary, put my life on the line, but I did not push my way to the front of the line to get assigned infantry, and I don't volunteer for "extra" duties that put me in harm's way if they are not mission-essential. About the only thing I have in common with Nathaniel is Airborne training- and even then, I elected to NOT get the traditional "bloodwings". It seemed to me unnecessary pain.

Thankfully, there are guys like this- not bloodthirsty, but he appears about as noble and still dedicated to the fight as one can get in the circumstances of war. Many military autobiographies and narratives seem inflated and fail to acknowledge mistakes the person makes. I find his narrative wholly believable, and I admire him greatly. There was at least one case where I thought the good Lieutenant blamed himself (inwardly) for something that was really beyond his scope of control- it is a pleasure to see someone so willing to stand up and be accountable (even perhaps to a fault) like that.

Two questions that came to me as I was reading the book:

Why'd this guy quit? He answers that in the last chapter or so. If you're interested enough, you'll find the answer, too.

Why did he "throw the guy under the bus"? His company commander for his time in the current Iraq conflict (but now 4 years ago...) was frequently presented as a "how NOT to do it" model of leadership. He never named him in the text, but it would take very little investigative work to identify the individual. I'm not throwing stones at Fick on this at all- I gripe about leaders all the time- ok, not all the time, but too often. But his character and commitment in general seem to lead to the impression that he wouldn't do such a thing. The best explanation I can come up with is that so we can all learn from it. He addressed specific behaviors and comments, and how those came across to others, their impact on operations, morale, etc. As some critiques have stated, a stunning argument for the importance of competence.

Now the question is if I will ever finish Lawrence's Seven Pillars...

No comments: