Security contractors Kris “Tanto” Paronto and Mark “Oz” Geist, are speaking out about their harrowing experience during the Sept. 11, 2012, terror attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, revealing, among other details, that it took them only “three seconds” to realize that it was a coordinated attack and not a spontaneous protest, as some originally alleged.
The stories of Paronto, a former Army Ranger, and Geist, a former Marine, among others, are told through “13 Hours,” a new film about the Benghazi terror attack that opens on Friday. The movie, much like the book by the same name, recounts the experiences of “six elite ex-military operators assigned to protect the CIA who fought back against overwhelming odds when terrorists attacked.”
Paronto and Geist, who heroically fought back against militants in the siege that killed former Navy SEALs Glen Doherty and Tyrone S. Woods, information officer Sean Smith and U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, also revealed the moments during which they felt God was helping them.
“I felt it … there, at the consulate when we were taking fire, I was out in the open. … I was in the middle of the road out in the open — no cover, no concealment, but I felt fine,” Paronto told The Church Boys podcast. “There was … a golden cocoon around me, like nothing’s going to touch me. To me, that’s God’s hand coming down and actually just protecting me.”
Listen to Paronto and Geist discuss their “God” moments below:
He said that his faith is “greater now than it ever has been before,” citing the support that he and other survivors have received in the wake of the Benghazi attack. Geist, too, shared similar sentiments.
“I was blessed with being raised with a strong Christian faith … and foundation and that has always gotten me through any of the hard things I have had to face in life,” he said. “That night … there were three mortars that should have killed me. I know that God’s angels were protecting me. They had their wings wrapped around me that night.”
Geist said that he was on the rooftop with Doherty and Woods when they died, and that he, too, was in grave danger, as the mortars, which had a kill radius of 21 feet, were just 15 feet away from him, leaving him with many injuries.
The two also discussed some of the misconceptions that surround Benghazi, an attack that has, at times, become quite political, considering that Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State at the time.
“People have seen Benghazi as a negative and it shouldn’t be,” Paronto said. “It needs to be looked at as a positive — a positive night of overcoming obstacles, and overcoming adversity.”
He continued, “If you work together and have faith in yourself and you have faith in God that you can overcome anything.”
Watch the “13 Hours” trailer below:
As far as the debate over the government narrative surrounding whether the event was a spontaneous reaction to an anti-Islam Internet video or a planned attack, Paronto said that it took him just “three seconds” to see that what was unfolding was planned.
“We knew it was a coordinated attack,” he said. “There was no indication of a protest. We didn’t know anything about a video.”