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Nathaniel Fick

I started looking at the Marine Corps because I wanted to lead, I wanted to test myself, I wanted to do something different every day. I wanted to think, but I also wanted to be physical and, you know, outside with other people doing exciting things.

I was like the worst candidate whoever showed up at Officer Candidates School. I thought I was gonna be on the next bus home. I just didn't get it. The instructors at OCS are Marine NCOs, noncommissioned officers, and there were plenty of days when I thought that they were put on earth for the sole purpose of making my life miserable.

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But what I didn't appreciate, what took me a little bit of perspective to understand, was that they were looking at the candidates as men and women who would perhaps one day be leading them in combat. And when you look at it that way, you begin to understand this standard by which they're evaluating people.

My father, he got it from the start. He said, "The Marines will teach you everything I love you too much to teach you." And I didn't get it at the time. I don't think I even understood it in my training. I finally understood it after a couple of combat tours.

I'm the Chief Operating Officer now of a small company in Washington called The Center for a New American Security, and I use things I learned in the Marine Corps every day. So, leadership by example-if I need something done over the weekend and somebody has to be in the office, then I'd better be here, too. You can't tell somebody to do something you're not willing to do yourself.

When I was in college and I was making the decision to join the Marines, I had peers and professors who questioned my decision; said, "Why are you gonna go throw away this education." And I didn't at the time have an answer for them. I needed the perspective of having done it. If I could go back I would say, what, having the best leadership training I could possibly get, the most intense leadership experience I could ever have, learning viscerally about foreign policy all over the world, understanding ethical decision making in a very heartfelt way because I'm confronted with these choices every day, learning more about myself, pushing myself. These are the things that you think I'm throwing away my education to do? Anything but.

You learn that indecision is a decision and you have to make decisions. You have to be decisive.

The Marine Corps is in my opinion, the finest institution in American life. It has an ethos that is unbeatable. It has a collection of supporters and alumni that can't be defeated. The Marine Corps has a mission in the United States and in the world that people understand. They make Marines and they win battles. They take young American citizens and they give them a lot of responsibility and teach them something about what it means to live in a society where everybody has a vested interest in the outcome. And then when you go out in the world, you're accomplishing a mission. You're doing something for the United States.

It's certainly not for everyone but I think most people could benefit from giving it a shot. I think a lot of people are deterred because they think that it's not going to help them get where they wanna be in some kind of conventional sense. And I don't buy that. I think you learn more about leadership as a Marine than you do doing almost anything else.