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You Can Now Take a Gun Course from the 'Secret Soldiers' of Benghazi

Kris Paronto signs a copy of his book "The Ranger Way" at SHOT Show 2018 in Las Vegas. Hope Hodge Seck/Military.com
Kris Paronto signs a copy of his book "The Ranger Way" at SHOT Show 2018 in Las Vegas. Hope Hodge Seck/Military.com

LAS VEGAS -- When the Hollywood blockbuster "13 Hours" hit theaters in 2016, Kris "Tanto" Paronto and Dave "Boon" Benton became something like celebrities overnight.

The two men, portrayed in the film, were part of the small team of brave American contractors who defended the U.S. consulate in Benghazi during the tragic 2012 terrorist attack that left four Americans dead.

Now, their government careers over, Paronto and Benton are using their name recognition to launch a new series of training courses, instructing audiences ranging from law enforcement officers to civilians on firearms handling and tactics.

The former contractors appeared at SHOT Show this week to promote their new course, Battleline Tactical, sponsored by Maxim Defense.

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Veteran instructors who have worked as partners since 1994, they launched the course as a national tour this year and are now teaching two to three sold-out courses each month.

"The demand is huge," Benton told Military.com, adding that attention from the Benghazi incident had boosted interest in the course.

Benton, who ended his work with the government last year, was not involved in the making of "13 Hours" or the book of the same name it was based on, and has until now avoided the public spotlight.

"It's something that happened a long time ago; it's done with," he said. "I don't dwell on it and, personally, I don't like to use it for promotional purposes. Unfortunately, that's what everyone wants to hear and everyone wants to see."

And the pair are obliging. "Train with the real-life secret soldiers of Benghazi," declared a promotional brochure posted to Paronto's website in August.

While Paronto has courted the spotlight more than Benton, publishing a 2017 book called "The Ranger Way," he told Military.com the fame was not something he chose.

The CIA parted ways with Paronto after he went public with his account of what happened in Benghazi, amping up controversy over whether operators called upon to defend the consulate were told to "stand down."

"When you're in the special operations community ... you're taught to adjust, to adapt, adjust to your surroundings," Paronto said. "And whatever's put in front of you, whatever the obstacle is, utilize it. It's the old adage I used to get growing up: When you get lemons, you make lemonade. And really that's what happened."

All that said, Paronto and Benton are convinced they have something valuable to offer their students, with or without the added celebrity. They teach closed courses for law enforcement personnel that cover topics including counterterrorism and tactics, and open courses that cover even beginner skills. Two-day courses can cost $500 to $600.

"The last course in Texas we had a SWAT officer ... we also had a 50-year-old lady that had shot a pistol a few times," Paronto said. "And that's great, when you see that dynamic, that wide range. I really feel like we're doing the right thing."

-- Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at hope.seck@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @HopeSeck.

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