@rooftopnamja’s Reads: “All Secure” by Tom Satterly & Steve Jackson

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@rooftopnamja

“At the age of ten, I was just a small skinny kid who practiced violin [and] was somewhat fussy about keeping my room neat… About the only damper on my summer was trying to steer clear of my two antagonists. But they seemed to show up everywhere, stalking [me and my friends] like great white sharks circling baby seals before moving in for the kill. Insults. Stand there and take it. Face punch. Kick in the balls. Cry.” 

Satterly during Operation Gothic Serpent.

Such a childhood begins Tom Satterly’s life story bound up in his incredible autobiography All Secure. Retired Command Sergeant Major Tom Satterly served 25 years in the US Army with 20 of those years in the Unit, more commonly known by its alternative sobriquet—Delta Force. 

Replete with raw, politically incorrect aphorisms borne by combat such as “[war] was horrible, destroying lives and property, all for some assholes’ desires for power and control… the worst thing I could have imagined anyone going through”, All Secure immediately differentiates itself from its contemporaries. It isn’t your typical gung-ho, chest-thumping, flag-waving anthology of hardcore military training and glory-ridden war stories, though one might presuppose as much given the resume of somebody like Satterly’s. Albeit most of Satterly’s military career represents the poison at the tip of the arrow that is US foreign policy, his autobiography reflects not his headspace through his military exploits but rather, explicates his military exploits through his headspace. 

Satterly begins his book by detailing his early military career to include passing Special Forces Assessment & Selection and the Special Forces Qualification Course. His career as a Green Beret was rather short-lived; he describes being approached by two members of the Unit during the tail end of his time at the SFQT, advising him to try out for the Unit himself. 

Keeping consistent with All Secure’s theme of unblemished frankness, Satterly pens his thoughts with remarkable vulnerability. This theme, that of sharing his innermost thoughts and emotions with arrant honesty, quasi-hypnotizes the reader to turn page-after-page. He writes about his time during Unit selection:  

“I was spiritually broken and ready to quit. Ready to give up becoming a Tier One special operator for the Unit… I would wind up back with 5th Special Forces Group… For the first time since overcoming the childhood bully in Indiana, I was giving up. ‘Probably wouldn’t have made it anyway,’ I thought.” 

After eventually passing the Unit’s selection and its Operator Training Course, Satterly describes his time in the Battle of Mogadishu widely popularized by Ridley Scott’s 2001 movie Black Hawk Down. Though Satterly describes this 1993 Somalian battle empirically—both through historiographical contexts and contemporaneous news reports—he opts to sharply focus inwards on his subjective thoughts and emotions during this time. 

“I could tell by the dead men’s uniforms and gear that most were Rangers. But I did not allow myself to focus too closely on the faces, knowing that some of the dead would also include close friends… The thought crossed my mind that mine could have easily been one of those bodies waiting to be inventoried”.  

This book reads as if the Rhoda Sarnat award-winning (the Nobel Peace Prize of social work) psychologist Dr. Brene Brown herself experienced these sojourns and decided to pen them. That is to say, this book is written with unrelenting introspection and brutal candor with no stones left unturned. Satterly’s gripping bluntness doesn’t stop during this battle. After arriving home from Mogadishu, he recounts attending one of his teammate’s funerals with his then-wife, Debbie. 

“As I sobbed, Debbie had gotten a bewildered look on her face. She’d never seen me cry or lose control before. It didn’t last long. I quickly pulled myself together… apologized for ‘being a pussy’, and the subject matter never came up again.”

Satterly commences to describe his counter and anti-terrorist experiences within the Unit—from discovering bombs targeting the Pope to Saddam Hussein spitting a loogie at him and most everything in-between—the book is replete with harrowing, hair-raising anecdotes. Keeping with the air of absolute translucency though, Satterly writes in introspective monologues accompanying these combat-riddled stories, constantly reminding All Secure’s readers that his internal expressions are the points of the book with war stories buttressing them, not the other way around. He muses at one point in the book:

“I wondered what sort of place I would go to if I died in battle. I didn’t want it to be Valhalla. I didn’t want to kill and be killed throughout eternity. I wanted peace, and I wanted not to hurt anymore.” 

As the book moves on to its final chapters, Satterly illustrates the depressing nadir of his life with haunting arrest, integrating all that he has experienced up until this point of his life. This section of the book begins with his departure from the Unit.

“Standing there in the dark, wiping bitter spittle from my mouth. I felt like the Unit had used me, and now… had wadded me up and thrown me away like a piece of trash… If I’d died at that moment, laid down in the grass where I worked so hard to be the best of the best, I would have preferred it to living.” 

Satterly then explicates his suicide attempt and how, in what he believes to be his final moments, thought that it was ever-clear “all the things that were wrong” with him and how unequivocally “it would be better for everybody if [he] was gone.” 

Without divulging too much from this point until the final pages of the book, Tom concludes All Secure by sharing his and his wife’s, Jen’s, work with their very own non-profit: the All Secure Foundation. In consonance with their convictions—in rhythm to which All Secure is written with, the foundation aims “to reconnect and repair relationships, reduce veteran suicide through education, awareness, and resources for healing and to create a battle buddy system within the family unit so all family members can heal from the invisible wounds of war”. 

If you’re interested in helping out while buying some stylish swag, be sure to check out their website (100% of the proceeds are reinvested into the nonprofit) or cop your copy of All Secure. Amazon takes a commission off of your purchase so buy direct from All Secure if you can—give this phenomenal book a read and espouse an incredible organization.

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