Meeting the challenge: Speaker at ACLT dinner talks about his role in Benghazi

SIGNING A BOOK for a fan was Kris “Tanto” Paronto, a member of the U.S. Army Rangers who spoke at the ACLT dinner on April 7. Photos by Nancy McReady.

by Nancy McReady -

This year, Associated Contract Loggers & Truckers (ACLT) held their 28th annual banquet at Fortune Bay. The Woodland Ballroom was full to the brim with 350 corporate sponsors, ACLT members and supporters. The theme of this year’s event was ‘Meeting the Challenge.’
In his opening remarks, ACLT Executive Director Scott Dane acknowledged the several law enforcement officers in attendance from across the country who traveled to northern Minnesota to hear the keynote speaker, Kris ‘Tanto’ Paronto.
Tanto is a veteran U.S. Army Ranger. ACLT felt Kris embodied the theme of “Meeting the Challenge” with all he experienced in Benghazi as a security contractor.
Dane explained Paronto had quite the challenge in even getting to the banquet. Flights were canceled all along the East Coast due to weather conditions.
Dane contacted several ACLT corporate sponsors to arrange for their jets to bring Paronto to Minnesota. A private jet was finally chartered with one passenger, Tanto. It flew into the Tower airport and Paronto arrived as dinner was being served.
The trailer of the movie based on the book by the same title, “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi” was shown, and then Tanto took to the stage.
Paronto paced across the stage, back and forth, like a caged animal. He admitted he can’t stand still.
He told the real story of Benghazi on September 11, 2012 and how crushed he and his six-member team were when told to wait, and then to stand down while the American Embassy was being attacked and Ambassador Chris Stevens was killed.
Paronto explained in detail the events of the 13 hours of that day and said the movie is very accurate but the book has even more details.
Paronto spoke about his training received as a U.S. Army Ranger, serving in the 2nd Battalion, 75th Regiment and 5th Battalion, and Special Forces. 
He talked about his love of God and country, and working together as a team.
He also talked about how he felt our country let him, and his team down, for political reasons. He still feels the devastation of losing three members of his team and not being able to rescue Ambassador Stevens.
Paronto expressed the disgust in hearing the news that the attack in Benghazi was the result of a video. It has been his, and his remaining team members’ driving force in getting the truth out.
In total exhaustion, they pushed on. They never gave up. Paronto spoke of the absolute elation when friendly Libyan forces finally arrived.
Paronto was given a true hero’s thank you with a standing ovation, and then was presented with a beautifully forged knife by Cody Hofsommer that had Paronto’s signature and RLTW (Rangers Lead The Way) on it.
Hofsommer explained the knife was 640 Damascus in laddered W pattern. He forges his own Damascus, starting with 20 or more layers of two different kinds of steel, forging it out and folding it over. Doing this until he has 640 layers.
Paronto was quite impressed with this gift, and asked Hofsommer to ship the knife to him rather than risk losing it on his return flight.
Paronto signed his book, “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi” and had pictures taken with each person. He was very accommodating and always with a smile as people thanked him for his service.
In addition to Paronto speaking, ACLT honored three retiring loggers.
Ed LaFavor is a retired logging safety trainer with Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry LogSafe program, a program designed by the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry to provide safety training for loggers.
Pete Aube began his career with Potlatch in 1980 in Cloquet. He is a retired plant manager for the Potlatch Bemidji Stud Mill.
Larry Dukek is a semi-retired logger/owner of Dukek Logging. He started his company in 1967.
Dukek Logging is one of the larger logging companies in Minnesota. They produce round wood for pulp and paper mills, board mills, sawmills and biomass facilities. Dukek Logging is a supplier of biomass to the Laurentian Energy Authority (LEA) facilities in Virginia and Hibbing.