Many of you may be familiar with Jocko Willink; the incredibly disciplined ex-Navy SEAL who makes you feel lazy for not waking up at 0430 every morning.
The Ghost Warriors: Inside Israel's Undercover War Against Suicide Terrorism by Samuel M. Katz is an informative and highly relevant book for anyone interested in the modern battlefield and how unconventional solutions are needed to fix unconventional problems.
The Art of War by Sun Tzu is essential reading for any Marine Officer or individual interested in strategy. Read on to find out why.
If you are a future or current Marine Officer, or simply interested in war and warriors, Steven Pressfield should be on your shelf. And The Warrior Ethos is the book to start with.
While candidates and students at OCS (Officer Candidates School) and TBS (The Basic School) are told to develop a warrior ethos or mentality, it is not always clear what that means. Often it is presented in a vague and open ended manner, without any specifics about how to accomplish it or whom to look to for inspiration.
The Warrior Ethos answers that question, and how we can apply those lessons in the 21st century, whether civilian or Marine.
Using notable warrior societies and figures throughout history, such as the Spartans, Caesar's Romans, Field Marshall Erwin Rommel, General Patton, and the United States Marine Corps (to name a few), Pressfield seeks to find commonalities and a universally held warrior ethos.
Pressfield argues that the warrior ethos came into existence as an antidote to fear; more specifically to counter the instinct of self preservation that arises from fear.
Warriors cannot be overly concerned with self preservation. They must put the needs of the group ahead of themselves. To facilitate this and fight the instinct for self preservation, the warrior ethos uses the equally powerful human reactions towards shame, honor, and love.
Shame: the fear of being ostracized by the larger group outweighs the fear of death.
Honor: the counter to shame. In warrior cultures honor is put above all else. Better to die than to live without honor.
Love: the idea that you fight for your brothers and would die to protect them.
The Warrior Ethos also examines the role that external circumstances have in creating warrior cultures, such as a harsh physical environment or other adverse conditions.
Pressfield (a former US Marine himself) dedicates considerable pages to the United States Marine Corps and the specific values that make them such a formidable war-fighting organization.
"Among all elite U.S. forces, the Marine Corps is unique in that its standards for strength, athleticism and physical hardiness are not exceptional. What separates Marines, instead, is their capacity to endure adversity. Marines take a perverse pride in having colder chow, crappier equipment and higher casualty rates than any other service. This notion goes back to Belleau Wood and earlier, but it came into its own during the exceptionally bloody and punishing battles at Tarawa and Iwo Jima, the Chosin Reservoir and Khe Sanh. Marines take pride in enduring hell. Nothing infuriates Marines more than to learn that some particularly nasty and dangerous assignment has been given to the Army instead of to them. It offends their sense of honor. This is another key element of the Warrior Ethos: the willing and eager embracing of adversity"
It is no coincidence that Marines train hard and in miserable conditions. Adversity and enduring pain are part of its warrior ethos.
The Warrior Ethos is essential reading for Marines and Marine Officers.
It explains why Boot Camp, Officer Candidates School and The Basic School do what they do, and why they are so effective.
Through Pressfield's writing, we can connect the Marine Corps to those warrior cultures that came before us and it becomes more clear that while wars change, warriors stay the same.
Before we can review our first book, we have to address the question of, "why read in the first place?"
General Mattis answered a similar question when a colleague emailed him asking about the importance of reading for Marine Officers, especially those who were "too busy to read."
General Mattis replied, "The problem with being too busy to read is that you learn by experience (or by your men's experience), i.e. the hard way. By reading, you learn through others' experiences, generally a better way to do business, especially in our line of work where the consequences of incompetence are so final for young men.
Thanks to my reading, I have never been caught flat-footed by any situation, never at a loss for how any problem has been addressed (successfully or unsuccessfully) before. It doesn't give me all the answers, but it lights what is often a dark path ahead...Ultimately, a real understanding of history means that we face NOTHING new under the sun."
We couldn't have said it better ourselves.
One Bullet Away by Nathaniel Fick is an excellent place to start for a current or future Marine Officer.
Fick starts his story in college, and takes the reader through his experiences at Officer Candidates School, The Basic School, and Infantry Officer Course. Fick's detailed and personal account
of the training pipeline provides valuable lessons and takeaways that are beneficial to any Marine, and illustrate what the Marine Corps instills and expects out of its leaders.
Upon reaching the fleet, Fick served as a Platoon Commander in Afghanistan immediately following the 9/11 attacks. While back in the United States following his tour in Afghanistan, Fick attended Marine Reconnaissance training and Army Airborne School.
He subsequently commanded Second Platoon of Bravo Company , 1st Recon Battalion , serving as the tip of the spear for the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
What we liked most about One Bullet Away , is the perspective of a young Platoon Commander, at times overwhelmed and unsure, fighting a shadowy enemy and dealing with a chain of command that only made things worse. Fick and his platoon were among the first Marines in Iraq and were confronted with a country and a civilian populace that were completely unfamiliar to them.
In addition, Fick was forced to navigate both the politics inherent to leadership and issues with other officers and NCOs in Bravo Company. Through his writing, the nuances of war become more clear, and the reader can follow the leadership development of an increasingly competent Marine Officer.
Lastly, One Bullet Away provides the reader with a clear perspective on an often convoluted war as portrayed in the media and common discourse. If you want to hear about it from the guys that actually did it, check out the book.
In 2008, HBO made One Bullet Away into the hit miniseries "Generation Kill," but we recommend reading the book first.
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