A survivor of “the other 9/11” who defended a US embassy against a 100-man wave of terrorists recalled how a "badass chef" fought back.
Mark "Oz" Geist was one of six CIA contractors tasked with protecting J. Christopher Stevens, the US ambassador to Libya in 2012, when the Benghazi embassy came under attack.
He suffered over 22 blast injuries in the coordinated attack by Islamic militant group Ansar al-Sharia, which took place exactly 11 years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
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The highly-trained specialists were supported by a small number of embassy staff, including the facility's chef, Mark told podcaster Shawn Ryan.
He recalled: “Our Chef was was a badass … I mean he grew up as a freaking gangster on the streets and first thing that he did was grab a shotgun said ‘Go ahead and let them come in here’.”
The bloody engagement, which cost the lives of US foreign service officer Sean Smith and CIA contractors Tyrone S. Woods and Glen Doherty as well as that of Ambassador Stevens, lasted 13 hours.
Mark described in detail how the attack began to unfold while he was out at dinner with a colleague.
“I'm keeping my composure because I don't want to be driving fast I don't want to make myself a target and I knew so we had to drive West down the coast cut back in and come back a little bit through the desert and come back in to the consulate or to the annex,” he recalled.
But while they were on their way back, they encountered a Libyan militia roadblock.
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“About six to eight guys jump out with AKs and set up a roadblock," Mark recalled. "What’s going through my mind is ‘okay what the hell am I going to do?’
“The female case officer, she can blend in as an Arab – she speaks Arabic – but this blonde hair blue-eyed guy ain't gonna fit in.”
But luck was on Mark’s side when the car driving ahead of them raced through the roadblock, distracting the gunmen.
Mark’s problems were just beginning, though, when he got back to the US compound, only to find that it had been set on fire.
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He continued: “I think Jack [Silva] was up there first and the state department guys had come out and they had pulled out Sean and they started to try to do CPR on Sean , but he was deceased already. He died of smoke inhalation.
“Jack had contacts in and he started to go into the fire and he couldn’t because it freaking about melted his contacts to his eyes.”
The contractors desperately searched through smoke-filled rooms for the ambassador, without success.
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They regrouped on the building’s roof, gathering what weapons they could, and shot back as wave after wave of attackers with AK-47s, rocket-propelled grenade launchers and improvised explosives attempted to breach the compound.
At one point, a mortar bomb exploded next to Mark, peppering his arm with shrapnel and nearly severing it.
Severely wounded, he carried on fighting. He said:“I go to start shooting, I bring my left arm up to grab my gun and as I bring my left arm up that's when I realise I’m injured because it's hanging off at about a 90-degree angle.
"You didn't even feel it because I'm just thinking of getting into the fight and I'm swinging my arm I'm sitting there swinging the thing trying to make it work and I'm shooting and then the next mortar hits…”
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Mark, who later wrote a book about his experiences that night, is philosophical about his injuries: After 14 surgeries, his hand is still badly mangled.
“I’ve got limited feeling in the palm of my hand and I don't have much dexterity with it, but I mean it’s attached and it works,” he said.
The defenders managed to save the lives of 30 US embassy personnel.
Hillary Clinton, US Secretary of State at the time, took responsibility for what she called “security lapses” at Benghazi and expressed her own personal regret at the loss of life.
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