Former Marines John “Tig” Tiegen and Mark “Oz” Geist never aspired to write a book about their experiences in Benghazi.
That was before politics “hijacked” the story, according to Tiegen.
Geist was not a public figure. He did not like having his picture taken; he said there were only around 10 pictures of him before he was deployed to Benghazi. He felt, however, that his personal story had to become public when his experiences became political for others.
“The politics took over the story,” Geist said. “Four guys weren’t being honored. It was more of just using their deaths as a political game for the left and right.”
That book, 13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi, was published Sept. 9, 2014. Now, a film based on the book, 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, will be released on Jan. 15, 2016. The two former Marines promoted the film at the Four Seasons Hotel in Downtown St. Louis.
Battle of Benghazi
The American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya was attacked by Islamic militants on Sept. 11, 2012, the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. The attacks resulted in the deaths of U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, U.S. Foreign Service Information Management Officer Sean Smith, CIA contractors Tyrone S. Woods and Glen Doherty and various Libyan attackers.
Tiegen is a former Marine Sergeant from Colorado. He was in his third rotation to Benghazi as part of the CIA’s Global Response Staff when the attack occurred. The Global Response Staff is tasked with security operations abroad made up of security contractors.
He had previously served as a security contractor for Blackwater, a security services training company, on missions in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq.
Geist, also a Colorado native, joined the U.S. Marine Corps in 1984. 12 years later, he became a deputy sheriff in Teller County, Colorado. In 2004, Geist began doing contract security work in Iraq for security service company Triple Canopy.
After leaving the position, he worked for the United States Investigative Security Details, training Iraqi SWAT teams and Personal Security Details.
He finished his career as a security contractor in Benghazi.
Tiegen and Geist believe that the impulse to help others just comes naturally and the attack only furthered that claim.
“For a lot of military, it’s a natural thing,” Tiegen said. “You hear somebody calling for help, you’re going to go and do it regardless if your life is at risk or not.”
Political no more
Geist said the book was in response to the political issues that he said took center stage in the aftermath of the attack. He, along with Tiegen and other Annex Security Team members, wanted to tell the personal stories of the men who defended the compound without any political agenda.
The book, which they co-authored with Mitchell Zuckoff, was adapted by screenwriter Chuck Hogan for Paramount Pictures. The resulting film is directed by Michael Bay. Bay is known for directing Bad Boys I and II, Pearl Harbor, The Rock, Armageddon and the Transformers series.
Tiegen and Geist hesitated at first to hand over their story to Hollywood.
“Hollywood can take a story and turn it into something else sometimes,” Tiegen said. “There were liberties that were going to be taken to make the story more entertaining, but we wanted to make sure the story was being told correctly.”
Tiegen and Geist said that Paramount Pictures and Bay cared about the story so much that they had confidence in the film adaptation. They said working with Bay was a very “intense” experience.
“He’ll start doing a scene and you see his mind just clicking constantly,” Tiegen said.
Geist said it is not easy to condense 13 hours into a two-hour film, but Bay did it without losing the essence of the story. He said the film captures, as the trailer says, “the true story you were never told.”
“You don’t lose the honor and the sacrifice that should be brought to these four Americans that died,” Geist said.
Geist said he and other team members made it known to Paramount and Bay that they would not be pleased if the story was not told as authentically as possible.
Geist and Tiegen were on set as consultants to help with set design and scripting issues. They also helped the cast capture the personality quirks of the team members accurately, like Geist having no filter and Tiegen not being a big talker.
Geist is portrayed by Max Martini and Tiegen is portrayed by Dominic Fumusa.
“They [the actors] brought a lot of dedication in getting us down correctly,” Tiegen said.
Geist said he would encourage politicians who are following the Benghazi situation to watch the movie and see the human side of that night without any prejudgments.
“I think it will make a difference in people’s view in how things happened,” Geist said.
The film will be released Jan. 15, 2016.
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