"I look at that as not so much a stand-down order, as it is a 'stay where you are,'" says Firman. "Those guys met the planes and continued to support."
Firman adds that the C-130 was tasked with picking up the American personnel at the Benghazi airport and leave immediately. These Special Forces troops would not have been on the ground long enough to have contributed significantly to the operation.
"There was a very limited amount of time that they could have done anything," he says.
The Joint Operations Center that was overseeing the response was getting inputs from Benghazi and from Tripoli, Firman says, adding it was "in a position to coordinate in a way that people standing on the ground aren't necessarily."
Hicks recounted Wednesday the first few hours of the attack, beginning with a cell phone call with Stevens in which the ambassador said, "Greg, we're under attack."
Throughout the night, as many as 60 people overran the Benghazi compound through four phases of the attack and evacuation, he said.
This led up to roughly 3 a.m. on Sept. 12, when Hicks received what he calls "the saddest phone call I've ever had in my life." The Libyan prime minister informed him that Stevens had died.
"Our team responded with amazing discipline and courage in Tripoli, in organizing our withdrawal," he said. "I have vivid memories of that."
"I was in awe, I am still in awe of them," he said.