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Benghazi Hero Kris Paronto Preaches Decisiveness to XChange+ Crowd

“As leaders—and all of y’all know this, especially the last two-and-a-half years—you’ve had to make hard decisions,” Kris “Tanto” Paronto told attendees at XChange+ 2021 during the event’s opening keynote address. “Even as your decisions get harder, always make a decision. Even if the decision haunts you for the rest of your life, it’s better than making no decision. You can always adjust on a bad decision.”

Managed services and IT consulting come with lower stakes than braving gunfire and grenades in Libya, but some of the lessons learned by former Army Ranger Kris “Tanto” Paronto resonated with solution providers at XChange+ 2021.

Paronto shared tales of his experience as a part of the CIA annex security team that responded to the 2012 attack on U.S. government facilities in Benghazi during the opening keynote of the conference, being held this week in San Antonio and hosted by CRN parent The Channel Company. Paronto became well-known after his story was told in the book “13 Hours,” as well as the Michael Bay-directed film of the same name. He currently works as a private security contractor.

“As leaders—and all of y’all know this, especially the last two-and-a-half years—you’ve had to make hard decisions,” Paronto said. “Even as your decisions get harder, always make a decision. Even if the decision haunts you for the rest of your life, it’s better than making no decision. You can always adjust on a bad decision.”

Paronto’s also briefly acknowledged of the role solution providers played in providing IT services to the military: “We are a very big military because of people like you, because of IT, because of cybersecurity,” he said.

His talk was equal parts action—“It’s freaking awesome” to hear bullets break the sound barrier as they whizz by your ears in a firefight, he confessed to the crowd—and tragedy as he spoke of the Americans who died that day.

For Tanaz Choudhury, president and CEO of TanChes Global Management, a Houston-based member of CRN’s 2021 Managed Service Provider 500, Paronto’s stories are a reminder of how business leaders, like soldiers in the field, must keep perspective during tough times.

“It never fails to inspire me to hear these kinds of stories,” said Choudhury, whose company’s vendor partners include Cisco, Microsoft and Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

Choudhury found herself making tough decisions during the early days of COVID-19’s spread in the U.S., including whether to continue providing services to customers that told her they needed to pull back on spending until the country opened back up.

But Choudhury had faith and financial reserves. And as the pandemic went on, her customers returned to paying TanChes. Her pandemic decision-making may not have been life-or-death like the situation faced by Paronto and his unit as they attempted to rescue Americans during the 2012 attack, but she thought about the employees and their families whose lives could alter if she made the wrong choice.

“I had five or six employees to think about, and our contractors,” she said. “It was a huge risk. But I told our customers, ‘Let us be there for you.’”

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