Kris “Tanto” Paronto stepped into world’s spotlight during the horrific attack on an American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya on September 11th, 2012. The events of that terrible night have since become so politicized, it can be easy to lose sight of the heroism, the sacrifice, and the patriotism Tanto and his team displayed, bucking against orders in an effort to save American lives after being repeatedly told to stand down, stand by, or stand aside.
In his new book, “The Ranger Way,” Kris “Tanto” Paronto demonstrates his willingness to take risks for what he believes is right once again. While many would be content to adopt the public persona of an infallible hero in the face of the attention he gained since that fateful night, Tanto’s book takes a decidedly different, and much more important approach. Over the span of twelve chapters, Paronto explains how he came to find himself in the position of a hero that night – being open and honest about the struggles, the hardships, and even the failures that made him the man the United States could count on to do the right thing, even in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds, and without the very support of the country he loves so dearly.
Tanto not only provides us with extensive insight into what was going through his mind as he fought for his life and the lives of those around him on September 11th, 2012, but he breaks down those experiences into the lessons he learned along the way that made him successful. Many of those hard lessons were derived throughout his time at the 75th Ranger Regiment, as well as his struggle to return to the Regiment and earn the coveted Ranger Tab after the challenges he experienced in his personal life brought him to the brink of suicide.
Unlike fictional heroes, Tanto comes across as supremely human. He’s the first to admit that he’s not better than any of his readers, he doesn’t possess any kind of super-human abilities, and he hasn’t always been blessed with the clarity of vision he now possesses regarding his place in the world. Instead, Kris “Tanto” Paronto tells you how he, an ordinary man who is capable of making all the same mistakes we are, was able to overcome adversity, face down his own demons, and be a hero when he was needed. In that sense, Tanto’s book isn’t about fighting terrorism or enemies of our nation, so much as it’s about the internal struggle we each face throughout our lives. The real enemies in Tanto’s book aren’t from Al Qaeda, Al Sharia, or ISIS: they come from inside each of us.
As an outsider to the Ranger culture, I found myself approaching this book with a bit of trepidation. I worried that I lacked the context I’d need to appreciate his description of RIP (Ranger Indoctrination Program), the culture of the Ranger battalions, or the mental and physical struggle that is Ranger school. Instead, I was met by Tanto’s conversational writing style breaking down the concepts and lessons imparted unto him by his training in a way anyone could understand and appreciate. He describes the training process in order to give his mental and emotional journey a backdrop, and at no point does his description devolve into the type of military posturing one might expect from a book that bares the very title of Ranger so prominently on the cover.
This book isn’t written by a Ranger for Rangers, it’s written by an American hero and for anyone that could benefit from the type of mental discipline and strategic awareness a Ranger possesses – which by my estimate, is just about every one of us.
Despite coming from a different military background, I found Tanto’s description of the mental and emotional aspects of military service not only relatable, but demonstrative of the deep level of active introspection Paranto is capable of – as he directs his laser-like focus within, as well as downrange, throughout the stories he uses as supplements for the important lessons he has to impart.
Each chapter of this book begins and ends with elements of Army Ranger training intended to convert America’s soldiers into some of the most elite fighters in the history of warfare. Tanto then goes about describing how he learned the value of these lessons, and sometimes, what happened when he failed to appreciate their importance. Finally, each chapter concludes with an analytical approach to how these lessons pertain not only to combat, but to everyday life.
Tanto doesn’t spend any time in this book trying to convince you that he’s a hero, and that will likely come as no surprise to anyone who has followed his media career since Benghazi. He has struggled with failed relationships, he’s lost faith in himself, and by his own accord, he has failed time and time again – but the “never quit” mentality he developed as an Army Ranger has helped him pull himself out of the grip of his inner demons, and put him in the place he believes he was meant to be: an ordinary man that’s willing to do the extraordinary when American lives are on the line.
Tanto champions the idea of taking a “hard right” in the face of an “easy wrong,” and from my perspective, this book is an example of him doing just that. Tanto isn’t out to make a name for himself in this book, he’s out to help you make one of your own. Whether you’re trying to lose weight, struggling at work, in a failing marriage, or attempting to become one of America’s elite Special Operators, Tanto shares his experiences and hard learned lessons in an approachable way intended to help you skip the years of pain he had to experience in order to get to where he is. This book is about life, and choosing to live it, so much more than it is about taking the lives of our nation’s enemies.
“The Ranger Way” offers us a chance to see inside the head of a man who was present for one of the most important historical events of the recent past, but it does more than that. It explains some of the most important lessons Army Ranger training imparts on the soldiers that undergo it, but it does more than that as well. “The Ranger Way” gives us an opportunity to witness the world through the eyes of an elite Army Ranger turned elite GRS security professional… and to learn that the difference between these heroes and us at home on our couch isn’t as great as we might believe.
Tanto wasn’t born an Army Ranger, in fact he had to fight tooth and nail twice in order to earn the honor that comes with that title. He hasn’t won every fight he’s been in, and in what was perhaps the most relatable portion of the book, he even explains how a failed marriage and his poor performance at work left him feeling like a loser. Today, it can be hard to believe that a man like Kris “Tanto” Paronto struggled with self-confidence and depression, but that’s what makes it all the more important that he share his story. Service members and civilians can all relate to the weight of failure, to that awful feeling that we’re not good enough. Knowing that an American hero and hardened warrior has struggled with his emotions and his place in the world doesn’t only make his story and his writing more relatable, it gives us each an idea of what we could accomplish if only we’d stop standing in our own way.
By following the advice Kris “Tanto” Paronto imparts throughout, “The Ranger Way,” we can each improve ourselves, our chances at being successful, and our outlook on our own failures. It might not make each of us a Ranger, but Tanto himself points out that making you one was never his intention. The things that make an Army Ranger successful in combat can, and do, make men and women successful in everyday life – and this book provides actionable stepping-stones toward doing just that.
“The Ranger Way” hit shelves everywhere on Tuesday.
If you’d like to meet the legend himself, Kris “Tanto” Paronto will be at the Emmett O’Lunney’s Pub in the heart of New York’s Theater District on Wednesday, May 24th from 6:30pm until 9:00pm for a book signing and celebration of the book’s launch. Tanto himself is buying a beer for the first hundred people to come pick up their own copy of “The Ranger Way,” so get there early to score yourself not only one hell of a book, but a lifetime of getting to tell your friends that Tanto bought you a beer.