This original article was published in September of 2014. Since that time, the Benghazi hearings have revealed cover up after cover up on the part of State Department officials and Hillary Clinton. The idea that the US was trying to arm rebel forces with weapons has dogged the investigation. The book 13 Hours is set to become a movie.
Like streaks of light streaming through a broken down barn roof, more and more information begins to seep into our collective consciousness from the attack on the American Diplomatic Compound in Benghazi. Though vastly outnumbered, the men of the Annex Security Team fought pitched battles in the attempt to save as many lives as possible. One of the Annex Security Team who was on the ground during the attack, Kris “Tanto” Paronto, agreed to speak with Misguidedchildren on September 24, 2014.
“13 hours” of pure hell
The story of the September 11, 2012 Annex Team’s night of hell was recently released in a book entitled “13 Hours– The Inside account of What Really Happened in Benghazi.” It is a fast-paced nonfiction book written by Mitchell Zuckhoff , and corroborated by the men who were on the ground in the middle of the attack.
The Annex Security Team: Kris “Tanto” Paronto, Dave “D.B.” Benton, Mark “Oz”Geist, Jack Silva, John “Tig” Tiegen, and Tyrone “Rone” Woods.
In the dangerous, volatile world of Benghazi, the United States relied on the 17 February Militia (Libyan) and the Annex Security Team (all former military and members of an elite organization called the Global Response Staff- GRS) as security for the compound. The militia barracks were just west of the main villa where the diplomatic team stayed. The Annex where the GRS team stayed was about a mile away from the compound.
The property had three gates on its 8 acre parcel, front, back, and a narrow pedestrian gate to the side of the main front gate. The compound was only lightly defended with a few barricades. That night, none of those things mattered.
September 11, 2012 -violence ensued
Heavily armed militants breached the front gate and swarmed into the compound… the barracks, the villa, and the cantina.
“If you don’t get here soon, we’re all going to die!”
Frantic word reached the AST that the diplomatic compound was under attack. The team was up and ready to deploy within five minutes of the notification. But someone held them back.
The infamous “Stand Down” order
“Bob”, a CIA staffer at the facility was on the phone to someone, but Kris did not know who.
“I’m sure that he was talking to the 17 February people as well, but it was more than that. I have no idea how far up the chain it went. But we were definitely told not to deploy 3 times for about 25-30 minutes. After that we said to hell with it and deployed ourselves. Best case scenario: since the guy was a civilian and had no military experience, it was probably incompetence. Worst case scenario: someone told him not to deploy, though I don’t know why they would do that.”
Kris stated that within that first five minutes he requested air support… any kind of air support. A Spectre (AC-130H), UAV, ISR, anything would have helped. They were NOT told it “wasn’t available” as some media have reported. They were told by their Team Leader to “standby we’re checking on it.” No air support ever arrived.
In the ensuing hours of firefights, four Americans died at the hands of militant forces. Ambassador Chris Stevens, Tyron Woods, Glen Doherty, and Sean Smith were gone. Numerous others were seriously wounded in the ensuing battles. What the book describes as a “murderous mob,” set fires, and poured into the buildings as this team of true heroes took up positions against them.
Kris states he never trusted the militia. There were two young militia members who came across the wall with them that he did trust, but the rest of the 40, he didn’t “have much use” for them. Their ‘commander,’ or the person who seemed to be in charge, had suddenly appeared out of nowhere, and no one knew where he came from. He spent a lot of time on his phone. The book states that the majority of the 17 February militia left their posts.
Humor in the midst of the fire
Kris has a way of dealing with such desperate battles in a humorous manner.
“You know at the 75th rangers, you have to make jokes and laugh, because that’s how you can relax and do your job. It made the guys crack up. Of course it pissed off “Bob” and the Team Leader (a Secret Service operative), but they were so averse to risk that we didn’t know what the hell was wrong with them.”
The personal view
Kris was wounded on his leg and arm by a wall that collapsed on top of him during the attacks. He assured me that it was no more significant than a “farmer getting hurt on a tractor.” Having known a few farmers who were killed while on their tractors, that wasn’t particularly reassuring.
While shooting next to D.B. during the firefights, his eardrum was damaged because he was too close to the suppressor. He inched his way back so that he could function, but the situation left him partially deaf to this day.
“Yeah, after a while it stopped hurting.”
“Rone” was the team medic. He cleaned up Kris’ wounds… but later was killed during the battle while shielding David Ubben, a Benghazi-based Security Agent who was severely wounded.
“Does it bother me? Sure it does. But it’s war. It’s expected. When you have dead bodies, you have to expect the smell – sweat, shit, and blood. I looked at Rone’s body, I wanted to see him… the back of his head was just mush… I covered him up and said a prayer over him…
I checked Sean’s body- he looked ok… I checked the Ambassador’s body too but just from head to waist. He looked ok there… I didn’t know if they had desecrated anything below that, as some of the internet stories have stated.
For Glen, we ran out of body bags. All we had left were sheets to cover him up. One arm had rigor mortis and was sticking straight up. People were staring at him, so I broke the ligament so I could put it down. I tried to be respectful. Respect was important.”
With politicians rather than military running the current war against terror, we can expect more incompetence. Kris says he never wants to work for the government again. He is now what he calls “Mr. Mom.” He operates his insurance adjuster business out of his home, and takes care of his kids.
The book “13 Hours” gives these American heroes a voice. But there are issues still unresolved from this incident that need to be brought into the light. As time marches on, we can hope that all underlying causes and involvement will be known. In the meantime, we can be thankful for the heroic efforts of the Annex Security Team in helping save lives on that dark day in American history.