Two former Marines fought at Benghazi, helped with new film '13 Hours'
By Jen Mulson | The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.) (Tribune News Service) | Published: January 10, 2016
On the night of Sept. 11, 2012, Islamic militants stormed the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya. Before the sun rose, they killed U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, foreign service officer Sean Smith and security officers Tyrone S. Woods and Glen A. Doherty.
People inside the State Department compound and nearby CIA annex didn't go down without a fight - six members of the CIA's Global Response Staff, including Woods and Doherty, battled to defend the lives of the American ambassador and his staff.
Those men are the focus of the new Michael Bay-directed action film, "13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi" - based on the 2013 book "13 Hours" by Mitchell Zuckoff. It stars John Krasinski, James Badge Dale, Max Martini, Toby Stephens, Pablo Schreiber and Dominic Fumusa and opens nationwide Friday.
The men, including Colorado Springs residents John "Tig" Tiegen and Mark "Oz" Geist, were either employees or contractors with the Global Response Staff. In his book, Zuckoff describes them as "bodyguards for spies, diplomats and other American personnel in the field."
Tiegen and Geist got involved with the film as a way to pay homage.
"It was important the story was told right," said Geist, 50, a former Marine. "We wanted to tell the story, leave the politics out and honor the four Americans who gave their lives."
In the three years since the attack, the fight at Benghazi has become a hotbed of controversy, with accusations of cover-ups, misinformation and a failure to respond on the part of the government. Many believe the film will have an impact on the presidential election.
"Action movies are pretty fun to watch, and Michael Bay is a master of the genre," wrote Max Fisher, the foreign affairs editor of Vox.com, an American digital media company. "But this Benghazi film comes in the middle of a still-raging political controversy over the attack, which itself is part of Americans' struggle to process why four of their own died in Libya and what that means for this country and its place in the Middle East."
Tiegen and Geist stayed on set during filming to make sure details of the event were accurate.
"A good movie is something that makes you think," Geist said, "and gives you information. And with this information on what happened, it allows you to make up your own mind. Ultimately, I hope it's an entertaining film. People are going to see it and talk about it and, in doing that, it's a way to honor the four Americans who gave their lives."
After serving in the Marine Corps, Geist became a deputy sheriff in Teller County and was assigned as a liaison with the Vice Narcotics and Intelligence Unit in the Springs. He also worked as an investigator of crimes against children.
Tiegen, a former Marine sergeant, grew up in the Springs and attended Palmer High School before joining the military on a waiver. He spent several years as a security contractor for Blackwater and worked on missions in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq before joining the Global Response Staff.
"With the book, it states the facts of what happened that night," Tiegen, 39, said. "It's going to answer exactly what happened on the ground from the 13 hours when we went in contact until we went wheels up."
There have been misconceptions about the event, the men said, which also spurred them to become involved with the film.
"One is the ambassador being tortured, mutilated, raped," Tiegen said. "Never happened. Whoever put it out there wanted something for their own game."
Geist was wounded by mortar fire alongside his comrades, and he's endured 14 operations over the past three years.
"I almost lost my life that night. John saved my life," Geist said. "I've been in the military and contracting for 10 years and in between a police officer. You do that kind of work along those lines and something's going to happen at some point. To me no matter what happens, you have a choice to make it positive or negative. And to me it's just making the best of it."
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