One Bullet Away. The Making of a Marine Officer

By: Nathaniel Fick


Training OCS

1998 - June 1999

"They could gel and scream, make us put on and take off our socks fifteen times each morning, and harass us from reveille to taps. The staff had a very real, vested interest in killing bad candidates before bad officers." (20)

In order to become a marine officer the first step is to go into a extremely painful summer of officer candidate school or OCS. During this summer young men still in collage learn to work as a team, fight, and become physically qualified to be a proper marine officer. In this quote it shows how the men that sign up for this training have to go thru hell, listening to every absurd order the staff gives them like putting on and taking off there socks fifteen times every morning. Although the training is extreme and may seem pointlessly so in the middle of training it becomes clear that its because the staff wants to get rid of the men who would not make good officers, and only take the ones that can keep marines alive. By saying killing off the bad candidates it shows that if the person is not qualified for the job they get rid of them. Using the word killing is a generally negative word so it shows that officer Fick does not want to be cut, and stay to go thru the training of becoming a excellent marine officer.

Will the rest of training be exactly like this?
Is this training really going to help them in the real world if they ever go to war?

Training TBS- IOC

1999 - 2000

"We spent much of the winter in the woods and fields surrounding camp barret, practicing tactics as squad platoons." (39) "Despite the heady classroom sessions, IOC is a war-fighting school."(49)

It is clear that this officer has gone thru an amazing amount of training in order to get to were he is today. After OCS he instantly transferred to TBS which is to train marines in the realities of the real world by creating missions mainly in the woods. This quote show the main points that were practiced at the school and how it is different from OCS due to the fact that it is more tactics then conditioning. After that school he was transferred to IOC which is another training facility mostly directed to paper work, tactics, and mission plans. The quote show by the word heady that he does not seem to enjoy this part of training more then the rest, but the ending statement saying that it is in fact a war- fighting school shows that he is still very serious about excelling to his best ability and graduating.

How much more training is required in order to become a Marine Officer?
Will Lutinait Fick make a good officer and excel at keeping his men alive?

The Declaration of War

September 9 2001

"Fucking terrorists flew planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon." "Fellas, history just bent us over, guess you blokes are headed to war." (74)

As many know 9/11 is an unforgettable day when Al Qaeda terrorists flew two planes into the world trade center and the pentagon. This quote shows the extremely serious reaction that was caused when this horrible act of war occurred. This quote shows that almost instantly after this act of war happened that the military was already making plans to fight in afghanistan. Showing the first declare of war with afghanistan and how this 9/11 act caused the US military to immediately retaliate with war.

How long with this war last?
Is responding with war the proper thing to do, or will it create more mess then its worth?

Sword Helicopter Crash

october 2001

"One of the sword helicopters crashed. Get up and stand by." (69)

This quote is just before the Ficks marine troop went into afghanistan to recover the helicopter. The US doesn't exactly need the helicopter but as an act of pride, and war retaliation that the military sent them in as there first mission of the war. This quote shows that although the militaries goals are clear the timing set is not. There is not a specific time the marines will be going on the mission or when they will be back. It shows that although marines will not know exactly when they will be leaving for war but they should always be prepared and ready. That is a message that is constantly referred back to through out the story.

Will the mission go according to plan?
How will this act of retaliation affect the rest of the war?

Highway Attack

November 2001

"I had seen dozens of air stricks in training, dropping thousands of pounds of ordnance in the Nevada and California deserts. But this was real. Two trucks full of Taliban soldiers disappeared in the flash, leaving online twisted metal and charred lumps of flesh on the highway." (127)
This is the first act of war in afghanistan, when two trucks of soldiers came shooting marines on the highway air support came and dropped a bomb on them. This quote shows the reality of war finally hitting the soldiers. They have practiced it in training, and seen it many times, but the difference between training and real life, is that you actually kill many people with one air strike. This is a scaring moment for Fick shown in the quote by him stating that this wasn't what training was like it was "real". Its the realization that he is finally doing what all his training is for and thats killing US enemies.

Is it right for US troops to go into a place where they are clearly unwelcome and kill a lot of there soldiers?

Rhino Perimeter March

December 2001

"Each of my men carried his body weight or more. The ground underfoot was a jumble of head-size rocks, it was ankle rolling hell" "With all our other gear, that ment each of my marines would be carrying almost two hundred pounds." (132)

This part of the book got me extremely angry because while the two other platoons are riding in trucks to there destination the company platoon have to cary two hundred pounds each breaking their ankles on rocks the sizes of heads. The quote clearly states how hard it was for these men to complete this mission. Not only because they are carrying a large amount of weight miles thru the desert but also were the only squad that had to endure this kind of painful mission. Theres also a form of sympathy in Flicks words that shows he doesn't mind completing the mission but desperately does not want to do it for the sake of his men. This is an important factor in the book because it shows one of the hardest trials they had to face and it didn't include fighting in the war at all.

Is saving the breaking axles really worth making men journey miles with two hundred pounds on their backs?

Conquering Aqua phobia

January 2002

"The combat water safety swimmer course, our instructors told us during the predawn brief, was designed to nurture comfort in the water through exposure to extreme discomfort."

This water course with the navy seals was the hardiest thing that Fick feels he did in the navy. Due to the fact that he has a slight fear of drowning this exposure to extreme discomfort was exactly that. The quote is allows the reader to for shadow that the next turn of events is going to be very hard training.

Will Fick truly be able to conquer his fear of drowning after this training course?

Rolling Stone Interveiw

January 2, 2002

"This is Evan wright. He's a reporter from the rolling stone. He'll be embedded with the battalion. A clueless opportunist chasing a Pulitzer Prize on the backs of men he wouldn't speak to on the street at home" (184)

This is an important because it shows how interested the media was in what troops were doing in Afghanistan so they actually sent reporters to the military bases. By this quote Flick is showing sever distaste for this man instantly by calling him names and saying that Evan is the kind of man who would not speak to a man like Fick if they were back in the US. It seems almost as if he is a little jealous of Evans ability to go home as soon as he finishes the story. That is showing irony, the fact that Fick doesn't like the man but sometimes wishes that he was in his situation.

Was it fair of Fick to be so rude to Evan when Evan will soon be writing a story about the brave missions that Fick has led in Afghanistan.

Afganistan Combat

April 1, 2003

"My hearing returned all at once: roaring machine guns, Humvee engine shrieking." (214)

This part of the book the Marines are driving thru a little town when all of a sudden the enemy is shooting from all directions. Adrenaline is pumping in Fick and he looses all feeling temporarily. When he says that his hearing comes back that means he's getting over his shock of the situations and is beginning to except his surroundings. He's senses are now alert and is ready to fight agains the enemy which is what he needs to do in order to keep his troops alive. I can't believe that men would actually have to go thru this because I know for a fact if i was put into that situation I would be hiding on the car floor not shooting and driving a car at the same time.

Will the whole war be like this?
Is all this fighting worth it?

Bus Surprise

April 5, 2003

"light it up! The last word was still on my lips when every gun in the platoon opened fire. In slow motion, I watching .50-caliber tracers and Mark-19 rounds arcing over the truck." (259)

This is a very important part of the book because it was a situation that could have wiped out all the marines that were setting up camp there. With a full truck coming top speed at 3 different platoons and they all open fire at one point that gives great imagery of what the scene looked and sounded like. The truck stopped and the driver was killed. With the load order for the men to light it up, that shows that this was a very precious time to react in a positive way or else everyone would have been killed. I feel that officer Fick did the right thing in this case.

When will this war end?
Why is it that Afghanistan has so many suicide bombers? Why don't they use the military the have to fight?