One Bullet Away

One Bullet Away Book Cover One Bullet Away
Nathaniel Fick
Biography & Autobiography
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Bio of a Recon Marine. Strong leadership thoughts. Plus references to Pressfield’s Gates of Fire and OODA loops!

“First,” he counseled, “you must be technically and tactically proficient.” There was no excuse for not knowing everything about the weapon, radio, aircraft, or whatever else it was you were trying to use.

“Second, make sound and timely decisions.”

A good plan violently executed now, he urged, was better than a great plan later. Be decisive, act, and be ready to adapt.

The third piece of advice was simple: “Set the example.” As officers, all eyes would be on us. We would set the tone, and the unit would take its cues from our attitudes—good and

“Fourth, know your men and look out for their welfare.”

“Finally,” Fanning exhorted us, “train your men as a team.” A unit’s good morale and esprit de corps depend on each man’s feeling part of it. Marines need to know one another’s jobs.

Captain Novack had pinned a quotation on the classroom wall from Steven Pressfield’s Gates of Fire, about the Spartans at Thermopylae:

This, I realized now watching Dienekes rally and tend to his men, was the role of the officer: to prevent those under his command, at all stages of battle—before, during, and after—from becoming “possessed.” To fire their valor when it flagged and rein in their fury when it threatened to take them out of hand. That was Dienekes’ job. That was why he wore the transverse-crested helmet of an officer. His was not, I could see now, the heroism of an Achilles. He was not a superman who waded invulnerably into the slaughter, single-handedly slaying his foe by myriads. He was just a man doing a job. A job whose primary attribute was self-restraint and self-composure, not for his own sake, but for those he led by his example. A job whose objective could be boiled down to the single understatement, as he did at the Hot Gates on the morning he died, of “performing the commonplace under uncommonplace conditions.”

Hardness was the ability to face an overwhelming situation with aplomb, smile calmly at it, and then triumph through sheer professional pride.

In training, I was taught the OODA loop, a four-stage decision-making process described by Air Force fighter pilot Colonel John Boyd: observe, orient, decide, act.