CWU News

Former Delta Force Soldier to Urge CWU Audience not to Fear Failure

The 2001 Oscar-winning film Black Hawk Down was based in the 1993 “Battle of Mogadishu” in Somalia. Tom Satterly was portrayed in the film, because he was a Delta Force command sergeant major and involved directly in that firefight.  

Satterly will discuss the lessons he learned about managing life during his 25 years in the U.S. Army during a free, public presentation on Thursday (April 19) at 6 p.m. in CWU's Student Union and Recreation Center Theatre.

Sponsored by the university’s Army ROTC and Veterans Center, Satterly will discuss why he believes, “Our Greatest Failure is the Failure to Try.”

“We all fail at something,” he said. “We all fail at doing our jobs, we fail at living in life and we learn from it and we get better. And if we choose not to even try for fear of failing that is even a bigger failure in my opinion than attempting something and failing and getting back up and doing it again until you succeed.”

Satterly now directs All Secure Mission, an organization dedicated to making sure needed medical and social resources are available for retired Special Operation veterans, their spouses, and families. Resilience is a major theme of presentations he now makes on Capitol Hill, before corporations, and at school and college campuses nationwide.

“You’re responsible for everything that happens in your life—good and bad,” Satterly continued. “A lot of people talk themselves out of things they could have done and, therefore, not given it a shot. You’ve already lost by defeating yourself mentally.”

He says his specific advice for students is, “nothing is going to be given to you anymore.”

“If you’ve got a scholarship, great--but you better show your appreciation by turning that into something,” he continued. “If not? It’s your fault. If you turn it into something great, it’s also your ‘fault.’ Don’t expect anyone to hand you anything.”

Satterly’s advice comes from his own personal experience, along with what he learned from those he has worked alongside and talked with during his extensive career, during which he serving in every major U.S. combat theater, also including Bosnia, Afghanistan, and Iraq. He says the one innate characteristic they all shared was a willingness to “try anything and go at it until they succeeded.”

“There’s always somebody chomping at the bit to beat you and that either drives you to be better or it can take you down. It depends on how you let it affect you,” he added. “It’s what you do with that fear and that worry that makes you different. As long as you use that to drive you, and don’t consume you, it’s a good thing.”

Satterly used that pressure to motivate him throughout his career, during which he was awarded five Bronze Stars, two with valor devices, and a host of other honors and decorations.

“I don’t think I’m anything special,” Satterly pointed out. “I just think I’m trying to wake people up into what’s in their heads as to what they can tap into.”

Media contact: Robert Lowery, Department of Public Affairs, 509-963-1487,