Until a winter evening in 1998, Nathaniel was just another history student on a comfortable career trajectory of high school to college to white collar job. Then he went to a lecture by a "Wall Street Journal" reporter who had just published a book on the US Marines. It brought forth a latent desire to break free of the 'seat belt and safety goggle, safety-first' culture: to be a warrior. He passed the gruelling selection course and joined the Marine Corps on graduation. Posted to a Marine Regiment in the wake of 9/11, he took part in the invasion of Afghanistan, then led a platoon of their elite Recon Battalion during the invasion of Iraq. This is not a book about the Iraq invasion as such: it is an articulate and deeply thoughtful young man's account of what it means to fight in the frontline, to risk not just death or injury, but psychological harm. He reveals some of the awful dilemmas war can bring, horrible problems to which there is no 'right' answer, but a decision had to be made quickly - by him alone. In combat you are just one bullet away from death - or promotion.
But this doesn't focus the mind: it makes it freeze up - unless your training is so thorough that you overcome exhaustion and terror. 'Nate' took 65 men to war and came home with all 65. He proved himself an excellent officer and won a promotion, but resigned in 2003 to write this book and attend Harvard Business School.
After receiving a BA in classics from Dartmouth in 1999, Nathaniel Fick passed the US Marines officer training course and joined the Corps just before 9/11. He saw action in Afghanistan and Iraq in the elite First Recon Battalion (the Marines' equivalent of the Navy SEALs or British SBS). Among the first US soldiers to enter Baghdad in the Iraq war, he left the service after being promoted to captain. He is now in a joint degree programme at Harvard Business School and Kennedy School of Government.