This is the story of a young American who, through the inferno of war, was forged into a leader for the twenty-first century.
“It was waking up every morning with a mission of killing people that’s corrosive to your psyche. It’s hard to put that back in the box and hard not to be vocal about shaping your environment after that experience.”
Nate Fick grew up in comfortable surroundings in Baltimore, Maryland, with parents who he describes as compassionate, engaged people who cared about their community. He went to college planning on a career in medicine but, as happens, life had other plans. While studying the classics as Dartmouth College, he took to heart the ancient concept that to be a productive citizen you have to give something back. In the classical world, that meant military service. So, although it was never in his plans, Nate joined the Marines and he was still in uniform when the September 11th attacks unfolded
“We felt anger, fear and a sense of vulnerability,” he recalls, “but there was this overwhelming sense of purpose and unity--a feeling I had never experienced before in my life.”
As Nate quickly discovered, war really was hell. He served in both Iraq and Afghanistan but never became a true warrior.
“One of the paradoxes of good military leadership is you have to be willing to sacrifice the thing you love the most—your men. I had a hard time emotionally getting there. “
After Nate left the Marine Corps, he wrote a book about his experiences One Bullet Away: The Making of a Marine Officer that became a New York Times bestseller. And although he no longer served in the field of battle, he wanted to continue to work for the protection of his country.
After graduating from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, Nate became CEO at the Center for a New American Security(CNAS), delving into the nation’s most significant military issues and problems, helping to shape the national security policies that affect not only our troops but every American every day.
Five years later, in 2012, Nate made another move, this time to become the CEO of Endgame, a provider of cyber security solutions for the US Government’s defense and intelligence organizations. In accepting this new challenge, Nate emphasized the critical importance of cyber security.
“The security community is failing,” he warned. “We are not stopping the attacks. Cyber threats from both state and non-state actors represent escalating challenges to both United States national security as well as the corporate security of businesses worldwide.”
So, for Nate, the battlefield has shifted but the lessons he took home from war have strengthened his commitment to fighting America’s enemies on a new front.
“It’s a sacred obligation to take what we saw and try to make sure the same mistakes don’t happen again and try to preserve some of what was good…the sense of purpose, the sense of unity, the sense of justice.”
Note from Jill Iscol: Nate’s story is especially close to my heart. Like my son, Zach, Nate served in both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Talking to Nate, I could sense the enormous toll war takes on the minds and souls of the courageous young men and women who serve our country in the military. The lucky ones, like Nate and Zach, have found ways to reconcile conflicting feelings about their wartime experiences. Nate wrote a wonderful book. My son chose to produce, write, and direct a film, The Western Front.
Nate Fick graduated from Dartmouth College with degrees in classics and government. He earned both an MPA and MBA from Harvard University. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, The Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal. He is also a lifetime member of the Council on Foreign Relations.