- Audio CD
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio; Abridged edition (October 3, 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0743551877
- ISBN-13: 978-0743551878
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.1 x 5.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.4 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 499 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,104,969 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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One Bullet Away: The Making of a Marine Officer Audio CD – Abridged, Audiobook
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Audio CD, Abridged, Audiobook
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A Marine officer remembers his basic training and a brief combat mission in Iraq. Lt. Fick's descriptions of intense firefights emphasize the mortal danger and hardships our troops face in the Middle East. The details come wrapped in profuse and profane military lingo; a poor abridgment leaves noticeable gaps. The author's monotonous narration portrays him as having an emotionless affect, making him believable as a trained gunman. He delivers his short sentences like fleeting bullets, sometimes emphasizing the last word, and sometimes throwing it away. He coldly reads: "The bad news is we won't get much sleep this night. The good news is we get to kill people." J.A.H. © AudioFile 2006, Portland, Maine-- Copyright © AudioFile, Portland, Maine
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For all the 'major media' portrayals and critiques of the situation, our policies that got us there, etc., this is a side of the story 'on the ground', by the guys we (or Bush ...take your pick) sent to fight the war that SHOULD BE known and understood. His unit was better prepared, so suffered fewer casualties, than many others in Iraq - but you can still come close to understanding the price that was paid (or prices).
What a shame that our bumbling leadership DIDN'T EVEN BEGIN to adequately plan for 'what to do' for stabilizing and restoring a capable government in Iraq after we had 'won the war' ...that's my thought, not necessarily his. We did that in Europe and Japan after World War II (not easy in any event) – but really fell flat this time around.
4 stars: A straight-forward account of Marine combat in Afghanistan and Iraq from the POV of a Jr Officer.
Nate Fick was a main character portrayed in HBO’s 2008 miniseries GENERATION KILL (based on Evan Wright’s 2004 memoir of the same name). This memoir was written before the miniseries but after Wright's account, in 2005. It covers his introduction into the Marine Corps, deployment to Afghanistan, subsequent training as a Recon Marine and then his role as an Lt in the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
Fick is a capable writer and his story doesn’t simply cover the same ground covered in GK. You learn that he scored expert on the rifle range, was a weapons platoon commander, underwent varying rigorous courses of special forces-esque training and you also get a lot more information on lesser known members of the Recon Platoon he leads into Iraq. For example, Gunny Wynn is a much more significant character in the last half of Fick’s account due to his role in the unit organization.
Fick is able to portray the demand and stress associated with small unit leadership and his boot camp and advanced training segments are more interesting than other accounts I’ve read, but this account is a more straight-forward, almost sterile one. It isn’t devoid of opinions or personal reflection, but that’s not the focus of his account. This is not necessarily a drawback, but it makes for a less riveting combat account when Fick finds himself in the thick of the fighting.
Instead of a blow-by-blow combat account, we’re given one about leading competent men into modern warfare which, despite the subpar decision making skills of some of his superiors, sees him and his men through two different stints in combat without any KIAs.
However this does make the book less compelling ultimately, and I also felt that his training portion of the memoir, though better than others was still a bit bloated and could have been a bit shorter.
But these cons are drastically outweighed by the pros of Fick’s account, making it stand on it’s own as a story of the Wars on Terror, apart from Wright’s and later the miniseries. I also feel it is one of the best officer accounts published about this conflict, hence my scoring it 4/5 stars.
In terms of recommendations I'd say check out Wright’s book, though it is from the perspective of an embedded journalist. Also check out the miniseries because it is brilliantly made, acted and produced by the people behind THE WIRE, too.
Concerning modern combat memoir recommendations: the best one so far is still HOUSE TO HOUSE by David Bellavia and the best officer account is LIONS OF KANDAHAR. There are many accounts out there and I have a listmania ranking them if you’re interested.
As for the audiobook: I got a copy of the unabridged audiobook on tape read by Andy Paris. Paris reads the book well, if a bit dry but he changes up his voice acting for different characters though he sticks to the same tempo throughout all the different settings. The abridged version is read by Fick himself but I haven’t listened to it and read somewhere that Fick himself wasn’t happy with how the abridged book was edited.
Noncoms (sergeants and up, pardon me if I mess this up) are extremely key to making things work. But their "making", to echo the books' title is pretty clear. They come up from the ranks and although they command the regular soldiers they come from the same background, only they have years of experience and they are the cream of the crop. Their role is key, but this book does not cover it much.
Every army also needs officers, but the difference is that lieutenants are expected to make life and death decisions for troopers who are barely any younger than they are and who often have more combat experience. Often, their primary qualification is being more educated, which is not necessarily relevant on the battlefield. As they get older and more experienced, they, hopefully (but not always as this book also shows) become more qualified to lead troops.
Mr. Fick's book is an extremely interesting look at how the USMC trains these junior officers. In his case, due to his dedication and humility he comes out ready to take on this important responsibility. If you read through the lines, some of his fellow officers are not as good, even if the majority of officers perform admirably. Incompetent and glory seeking leaders have been the bane of the military for millennia, especially when wars are preceded by long periods of peace. Still, the overall impression I got was that the USMC is trying (no, I did not say "doing its best") to weed out the useless. Perhaps more in training than once they have graduated, which is similar to what we see in other professions, like doctors.
He mentions in passing a reason why his First Recon unit in Iraq had _some_ less than stellar leaders. Recon marines were expected to operate at the noncom/trooper level in the field. As a result, most of the officers were desk bound and might have found themselves out of their depth in the front lines.
If you are interested by the military give it a read. It is most definitely nuanced and does not "rah rah" the problems raised by the use of deadly force. Despite a deep respect for the military way of life.
One caveat: those solely interested in Iraq/Afghanistan coverage will find that it is not the main subject here. Lt. Fick only covers two fairly short deployments. On the other hand, it dovetails nicely and covers the same unit and mission as Generation Kill, albeit in a less critical fashion.