The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Experiencing the 13 Hours in Benghazi

Photo by Via Creative Commons

Private military contractor gives account of Benghazi.

The terrorist attacks at Benghazi on 11 Sept. 2012 was an event that many people have heard about through media, but A&M University received the opportunity to hear the first hand experiences of Kris “Tanto” Paronto, who was on the ground during the attack.
MSC Student Conference on National Affairs (SCONA) hosted the program “13 Hours: The Inside Story of the Benghazi Attacks” Thursday night to give an unbiased account of the events which unfolded.
“I ask that the students view this event as an a-partisan event.” SCONA Public Relations Director, Madison Benkovic said. “I think it’s a really unique opportunity to hear someone who was in Benghazi. It’s not just a story of what may have happened; he was there.”
This program compiled 13 hours worth of information and experiences into around 90 minutes. Paronto has co-written “13 Hours: An Inside Account of What Happened in Benghazi” which is the most detailed and accurate account of the events according to Paronto. The movie “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi,” directed by Michael Bay was filmed with Paranto and other CIA contracted private security officers on set.   
“This is a very relevant event with the movie coming out and the book with Chris “Tanto” Paronto as co-author,” Benkovic said. “We just thought: what an incredible opportunity to host him, bring this event and the story of on the ground to the College Station area.”
Paranto spoke to the students about the obstacles he and his comrades faced, how his relationship with his faith grew, and how he learned not to give up by recalling his experiences timeline fashion. He began his speech by stating that his experiences are not about politics but selfless service, which became a prominent theme throughout the program.  
“It’s refreshing to hear about a first hand experience on such a politicized issue and to hear his story the way I think it should be told, without any third party or anyone getting involved with it,” junior political science major Colin Lofgren said. “Just to hear his account about a very relevant issue. “
Paranto recalled details of the four year old attack by the minute. He talked about their stories, experiences and the relationship between him and his comrades. Many times during his presentation, Paranto uses humor as a means of relating to the audience and describes the jokes and gags of his time in Libya.
“It’s an intense and heavy [situation] that they are going through,” class of 2019, Viator Gomez said. “They know they have to find some sort of stress relief or find some way to deal with the things they are going through to continue to do their job.”
Paranto describes how his group had a protection agreement with the American ambassador in Libya. These contracted CIA private security forces were supposed to protect the ambassador from terrorists, but his team was told to stand down. The group listened to calls for help by the ambassador and his men for 25 minutes before bucking orders. The private security force, alongside some Libyans, faced the terrorists on the battlefield together.
“People don’t want terrorists there either,” Patanto said. “My right ear was blown out by a Libyan who started helping us with an AK47.”
Paranto talked about these people and their contributions. Some of his comrades became snipers: one was willing to shoot atop a burning building and OZ, another comrade, tried to be a sniper with only one arm.
“Henry was untrained in weaponry and unqualified for using machine guns. He was reluctant to join the group, but, once he took the gun in his hands, he went to get ready. This was the most courageous things I have seen,” Paranto said. “This is selfless service: The idea that my buddies will go home. I may not, but my friends will.”
After the battle had ended, it was time for Paranto and his comrades to leave, but a U.S. plane did not come for them. A Libyan plane picked the team up even though it wasn’t meant for them. Paranto said he felt betrayed by the U.S. because of this, the politics and the media. Paranto said he had given up until a woman told him to keep telling his story.
“When she said that, I realized that I had given up,” Paranto said. “God gives you only what you can handle. When you are down, just go one more day and see how what happened was supposed to happen.”
Throughout his account, he mentions how he felt God on his side and how his faith increased because there weren’t as many distractions during his time there. Throughout the experience, his faith grew significantly.
“The whole faith aspect [was interesting], usually the media wouldn’t address that at all,” freshman engineering major Reb Sullenger said. “It’s just encouraging to see those guys in those situations have faith.”
At the end of his presentation, a question and answering session was set up. Students submitted questions via online, and specific ones were chosen to be answered. With the story of the woman in mind, a question was asked: what was everyday patriotism like to him?
“Everyday patriotism is you guys watching me now. It’s people who love their country,” Paranto said. “People who don’t agree with me, but still come to see the face behind the story. You are all true patriotism.”

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