One Bullet Away - Notes

One Bullet Away by Nathaniel Fick – The Making of A Marine Officer

We should remember that one man is much the same as another, and that he is best who is trained in the severest school.   – Thycydides

5 leadership principles of the Marine Corp as explained to Lt Fick including what they meant and how they had been applied:

You must be technically and tactically proficient. Don’t get people killed because you don’t know your job and your not technically proficient.

Make sound and timely decisions. You cant wait till you have all the information you want. A good plan violently executed now is better than a great plan later. Be decisive and be ready to adapt.

Set the example. You will set the tone and the unit will take its cues from your attitudes – good and bad.

Know your men and look out for their welfare. They will follow you through the gates of hell – if they trust you truly care about them.

Train your men as a team. Morale and espirt de corps depend on everyone feeling a part of it. Train in each others jobs. The difference between you and your platoon Sgt is 1-bullet.

Lesson of collective punishment. My mistakes make the group weaker have to learn to think and take responsibility for the group. Not about how much you can take but about how much you can give.

We learned that indecision is a decision and inaction has its own costs. Good commanders create opportunities and ruthlessly exploit them.

Leaders have an ethical responsibility to serve as buffers, protecting their subordinates and a moral obligation to act from the courage of their own convictions.

Example of a Spartan officer – A man doing his job whose primary attribute was self-restraint and self –composure for the sake of those he led by example. ‘ Performing the commonplace under uncommon conditions’

Posturing vs predator behaviour. Guys in a bar bumping chests are posturing. A predator will look for an unguarded moment and kill you.

Killogy – Psychiatrist Dr Clete DiGiovanni. Examining the reactions of healthy people to killing.

5 Things combat leaders can do to help maintain psychiatric effectiveness of men in combat:

Minimize fatigue by maximizing sleep wherever possible

Build confidence in the team

Encourage communication

Use spare time to practice emergency medical skills

Use after action reviews to address the shock of combat and killing

Marines will expect 4 things of their leaders; Competence, courage, consistency and compassion.

Prevailing culture of his 1st unit 1/1 among Officer’s and NCOs was careerist; ‘Laugh at the Colonel’s jokes, don’t get anyone hurt and stay under the radar.’

‘History is the Marine Corps religion. Past deeds are a young Marine’s source of pride, inspiration to face danger and reassurance that death in battle isn’t consignment to oblivion.’

‘We never returned to the country we’d left’ – returning to the US after 9/11

‘Earning rank was easy compared to earning spurs’

Lt Gen James Conway Commander 1st MEU – Essence of rules of engagement – Wilhelms Law, if the enemy started shooting our concern should be proportionality respond with adequate but not excessive force. If we started shooting the concern should be collateral damage.

‘Tactical catastrophes are rarely the outcome of a single poor decision. Small compromises incrementally close off options until a commander is forced into actions he would never choose freely’.

When trust gets eroded in combat fear, rage sorrow and regret starts to seep into the cracks.

‘Every young officer quickly learns the difference between legal authority and moral authority. Legal authority is worn on the collar. It doesn’t win firefights. Moral authority is the legitimacy granted to a leader who knows his job and cares about his men’.

Combat leadership does not take place by consensus but by consent and leaders have only as much authority and influence as the consent granted by those they lead.