It’s been 22 years since the Battle of Mogadishu, but the images and the sounds still come.
Retired Delta Force Command Sgt. Maj. Tom Satterly remembers watching the first Black Hawk helicopter spin out of control, realizing in that instant that instead of capturing enemy leaders his objective had become rescuing the Americans on board.
He remembers running into the streets, over and over, pulling injured Rangers to safety, retrieving weapons, grabbing supplies.
He remembers the panic, the resignation, of running out of ammunition while under nearly continuous assault for 18 hours.
And he remembers with horrifying clarity seeing his friend take a bullet to the head as they made their way to the crash site.
“That’s when I realized we weren’t invincible. And we weren’t even to the site yet,” says Satterly after a pause and a choke, as the weight of the loss surges to the surface, if only for a moment.
Satterly has carried that weight for more than two decades, seen it spill into other parts of his life, watch it splashed across movie screens (mostly accurately) in “Black Hawk Down.” A career military man with 20 years in the Army’s elite Delta Force, he’s been retired since 2010, but the effects of war remain deeply embedded. Feelings of loss and the aftershocks from the horrors of war still play tricks on his mind. He still changes lanes when driving to move away from an abandoned car ahead, in case it has an IED. He doesn’t like large crowds, or sitting with his back to the door. “I have anger management issues,” he says. “Very little patience. I probably have zero empathy.”
But he also has a future. Satterly, 48, now trains select recruits through the Savannah-based company F3EA, which contracts with the government to develop and execute realistic military training for today’s special forces. The work has offered purpose to a post-military life that didn’t always have it. He had a rough start to his retirement, battling depression, a drinking problem and a general loss of place; without the adrenalin and challenges he was used to he became lost. At his lowest, in 2013, he contemplated suicide.
That’s around the time he met Jen.