By Chris Avena
Working in the outdoor industry affords you the opportunity of meeting some of the most interesting people. But every once in a while, you have the privilege of meeting an honest to god, living, breathing American Hero. It was at the NRA Convention in Dallas this past May that I was truly honored to meet and speak to Kris “Tanto” Paronto. He had taken a few minutes to speak to me about his new business “Battleline Tactical” as well as what happened that fateful night in Benghazi.
Chris Avena: You are obviously retired Special Forces or you're always a special force.
Kris Paronto: We don't want to get the Green Berets mad. I was in the Special Operations community. I was a ranger but people get that confused and with the different services; seals, SF, Delta and you get PJ's. We are all Special Operations community. It is out of respect for different things going through different forces to say that one guy is Special Forces and one guy is not a ranger. We are all special. We all go through that difficult training to become at the levels that we would like to be at. Sometimes though it is just a question not being able to feel pain because you're just an ignorant idiot. You don't want to feel anything anyway. Just want to make sure that's clear. So you would understand it.
Chris Avena: You transitioned from Special Operations and now you are a motivational speaker and you are a guest host Fox News.
Kris Paronto: Yes, every so often.
Chris Avena: Now you started Battleline Tactical?
Kris Paronto: Yes, Boone (Dave Benton) and I had started Battleline Tactical. Dave Benton the gentleman that was a Marine sniper that was with me with the that night in Libya at the CIA annex. We were both instructors for many years. In fact, he has even taken it to the next level . I have been a speaker but he continues to instruct. So, it was a logical step. It was something that we looked at each other and said, why haven't we been running own instruction company since we finished doing this? This was something that that we've always been doing.
Chris Avena: It is within your skill set?
Kris Paronto: It is! Even before Benghazi even happened. We both were training personnel going overseas doing the job that we were doing. It was just one of those things where you had a v8 moment and you smack yourself in the head and said why in the world are we not doing this for? It's taken off bigger than what we had expected. In fact, we had to shut courses down this year because we're too full.
Chris Avena: I have looked at what you cover. You cover everything from basic handgun and more!
Kris Paronto: We do cover individual protective measures which is basically counter terrorism courses. We cover anything from Carbine pistol, to advanced hand-to-hand combat training. Bennie Gloss is a fantastic trainer. He is a lead instructor for us as well. Larry Stephenson in Dallas Texas is another trainer and works with us. We use his range. So, the gamut of our classes really ranges from our experiences. We're not going to teach anything that we haven't been through or that we haven't tested down range. That is what benefits us as well, having both Boon and myself, we don't know everything but when you put our experiences together we know a lot. We are able to pull from different experience from people within their different communities and get more training. A higher bass level training and then tie it all together because when it comes down to it, pistol, hand-to-hand, rifle you may do all that in one night. You need it to be what we call full spectrum. You got to know everything.
Chris Avena: You go right down to the type of ammo that you should use?
Kris Paronto: Yeah of course. We have an ammo sponsor, Maxim Defense. Of course they do this great system they're one of our sponsors. Fort Scott munitions is one of our sponsors as well and Boon (Dave Benton) he's a brain guy. He likes to shoot the gel blocks. he likes to do the ammo testing. We do that as far as shooting into the vehicle to see what they do. But it is important to know what your ammo can do once you're carrying it. You have something that may not penetrate a vehicle, you need something that’s going to penetrate. or something that may use for home defense and you know bullets wont go through drywall. You may need something else that dissipates on impact so if you have a friendly or you have your daughter or your son or something in another room that you know that in case you have to engage.
Chris Avena: Something that breaks up on the wall?
Kris Paronto: Of course, it can fragment and actually just dissipate. So, again that's another advantage of being trained. Coming to training with us is because that's part of being a full spectrum gun carrying owner unless they are a combative owner. Because we're not all combative. We do gun carrying because we're law-abiding citizens and we want to protect ourselves. It's also smart to know what your system and what your ammo does because you may have to use it one day.
Chris Avena: So, you would train groups anywhere from Law Enforcement down to say my hunting club?
Kris Paronto: Yeah, and that is why I get this smile on my face. In our open enrollment courses, we have had SWAT officers that aren't getting the training they feel they need to get all the way to a seventy year lady that maybe has a concealed carry holder but she doesn't carry as many as she would like to. So, the parameters are monstrous. What we like about that, is that we are introducing new shooters to the community. And also introducing shooters the community that may not feel that they can go through some of the tactical stuff that we do saying yes you can. Come on in to a friendly environment. I’m not humble but Boon is humble. You get the personalities that people saw in 13 hours. They will see that the personalities are spot-on. So, when they train with us they're getting a kick out of just watching us. They are saying, my gosh these guys are exactly what they were in the movie. The movie 13 Hours was spot-on and they are funny and they'd like to have a good time. They like to joke but they're also are intense and Tanto was very physical. I am physically active. So they throw physical stuff into the courses that makes it fun and all-around they will enjoy. But they are also getting a lot of good training out of it. When you look at it, you have two lead instructors when you come on training field. So, we can take the bigger classes because you have two of us sitting there then we've got assistant instructors too that we have vetted that we know are going to have the same personalities as us which is making it comfortable. You train better when you're comfortable. Yes, you've got to ratchet it up every once in a while, but you don't want to instructor out there that is yelling at you all the time because that doesn't do anything. It just turns you off. And that's not how should be.
Chris Avena: Is it mainly men that you are training? How many women? I know that it is a growing demographic in the outdoor industry.
Kris Paronto: I would say when we have an open enrollment class where it can be a co-ed class with 25% women 75% men, which I think is pretty good. But we also do women's only courses and that's out of requests from women saying can you do a women's only course. I just had my first all women's class out in Nebraska two weeks ago and hardcore women. It was 12 degrees out and these women are out there shooting basic pistol in 12-degree weather. It was freezing. We have another one coming up in Palm Bay Florida so, I would say overall, it's almost 50/50 but it's a 60/40 split. That is amazing because you see women come out.
Chris Avena: I love to see that.
Kris Paronto: Tell the men out their that women listen to instruction a lot better than man. So, you're telling something and they’re extremely good shooters. I'm getting a PC here, there's women and there is men but their skill sets that different genders are better at. I'll be honest with you. I'm more impressed with the fact that they listen. There's no ego involved and they can get out there and hit the target, it's amazing.
Chris Avena: I have hunted with a lot of women. I could tell you straight out that they are good.
Kris Paronto: They are good and we are blockhead men. We can do everything. We know everything. Ego! this is something that you don't see that with women. It is fantastic. Again, they are great shooters.
Chris Avena: I agree, now taking a step back, you co-authored 13 hours?
Kris Paronto: Yes I did. Myself and Boone and the surviving members of my team of the team which was Oz, Tig, Jack Silva and then we had Mitchell Zhukov. When you have Marines, Rangers and Seals trying to write a book, It turns into a coloring book and a pop-up book. So we had Mitchell come in and help us with it. He is a fantastic writer in his own right. It did great. It was the number one New York Times bestseller, which in that climate, it was pretty impressive. Because it did not do the past administration any favors. Which it should not. They left this behind!
Chris Avena: Was it difficult to write? Re living the whole experience?
Kris Paronto: At that time, we did it about a year after the incident. It was like doing an after-action report. We were so spread out. The only person I knew what was going on the whole time was Boon (Dave Benton), because him and I were together but I didn't know what Tyrone was doing the whole time. Jack was with Tyrone. I did not know where Jack was either. So it was very therapeutic. Finding out what everybody did that night and getting it from their perspective . Now I know what was going on in his head and I know what was going on in Oz's head. It brought a lot of.... I don't want to say closure because it'll never be closure, but it brought a lot of the loose ends that I didn't know about together. So, it was a fantastic thing to write and then it was again getting back to this was very therapeutic and it's right and it's correct. The Ranger way that I wrote was a lot more difficult because it was by myself. I did have a writer, I am not a great writer. I had to somebody help me and her name was Melissa Moore. She came and helped me write the book. It was pulling up things in the past I didn't want to talk about. Ranger Way is about the failure. It has nothing to do about how we beat on your chest and say this is great. It is about how I screw up just like everybody else. But from my dad, from Lubbock Texas, he taught me that if you fall off that horse you get back on it. He taught me to pick myself up because it is failure that leads to success and that's what the Ranger Way is about.
Chris Avena: I think one of the glaring question. That is why? Why didn’t they send help when there was battle ready troops just hours away?
Kris Paronto: For the troops on the ground, all of the guys. I know a lot of those guys were ready to go. The ground pounder's, the pilots, they wanted to get out there. Political, it was political. A lot of reasons. You had the election coming up. I know that Obama would not have won. I honestly believe that if this story would have come out. The truth right off the bat, Obama would not have won that election. He barely won anyway and Mitt Romney wasn't exactly the greatest candidate at the time. Also Hillary Clinton, she was getting ready for her run at presidency. Benghazi was going to be her stepping off point. Look what I did in Benghazi and it showed how big of a failure that whole invasion was. They did not want to call it an invasion but that is what it was. The invasion of Libya, they turned it into a failed state. A complete political foreign policy screw-up.
Chris Avena: And Susan Rice blamed it on that horrible anti – Muslim video.
Kris Paronto: There was NO video. There were no protests going. They just made it worse. If they would have come out and said this from the beginning, it would not turn into this big fiasco. The lies that they told. What's drove us that we didn't want it, we didn't want to tell her, we didn't want to come out and tell the story. I went to Yemen after Benghazi, so did Boon they got to the point where they were trying to rewrite history. That is when we just said, no more. The bottom line, they were using the weapons there in Libya to support this Syrian militias. All of the Gaddafi arms are going over there and that was something that we wanted to look at the mess we're in now and that was the Obama administration, that was also Hillary Clinton.
Chris Avena: Basically, the stand down order came from Obama, down to Clinton, came right down the line to Susan Rice?
Kris Paronto: There were two stand down orders. The CI stand down. The first stand down by our CI personnel. That was just our CI personnel just being out of their element. Then you get to the color codes. Our chief went in the black, he shut down. He did not know what he was doing. He panicked. The military stand down, Yes, that comes from, and it always comes from your commander-in-chief. Who at that time was Obama. But then he also relies on State Department who did come in and commandeer that mission and told the military no more. Why did Leon Panetta not stand up for us? The Secretary of Defense stand up for his troops? Oh, that just showed you his character and the spineless bureaucrat that he was. When it comes right down to it, it comes all the way down from Obama being the President. He is the commander in chief. He has got to sign the Declaration so we can get in there with jets because it wasn't a war. We were in a wartime scenario. It's not a declaration of war. So for us to get jets in there he's got to sign off to get the Jets in there in any of the airspace, Libyan airspace. But then when it comes down to it, it becomes a State Department mission and that was Hillary Clinton. That is Patrick Kennedy, its Charlene Lamb that are given the orders of “not you guys, no you don't, they don't need help leave him alone”. And it was doing that that's as simple as you can get it breaking it down they didn't want to come help us because of politics.
Chris Avena: It always comes down to that.
Kris Paronto: Yes, it is.
Chris Avena: I want to thank you for your service. I want to thank you for everything that you sacrifice for us and I appreciate your time.
Kris Paronto: God bless you brother. Thanks for all your viewers out there as well, God bless you all.
It truly was a pleasure to meet this American Hero. He could not have been more accommodating. He was honest, upfront and direct. Who could ask for anything more. Please take a look at Kris's Website listed below.