ABC News’ Martha Raddatz Reveals ‘Most Dangerous’ Afghanistan Adventure

“I’m not an adrenaline junkie but I need to cover those things that matter,” Raddatz says

Martha Raddatz
Martha Raddatz

ABC’s Martha Raddatz chief global affairs correspondent and “This Week” co-host has done everything from covering the White House to moderating presidential debates, but it’s her war-zone experience that puts her in the running for “TV News’ Biggest Badass.”

We recently profiled CNN’s Clarissa Ward in a story headlined, “Why CNN’s Clarissa Ward May Be the Biggest Badass in Cable News,” and then some die-hard Raddatz fans responded with comments such as, “That’s because Martha isn’t on cable.”

“She’s fantastic,” Raddatz said of Ward when TheWrap pressed her on who is the more hardcore journalist. “I think she’s phenomenal and she’s a friend. We have certainly run into each other.”

After praising her friend, Raddatz modestly offered what she considers among her “most badass” stories. It was just another day at the office back in 2010, except she became the first journalist to fly in a bomb-laden fighter jet on a combat mission with the U.S. Air Force.

“Those were incredible missions where it was three Air Force F-15Es. It took us about six years to get permission to do that. It was about 10 hours in combat, the French were calling for the pilots to drop 500-pound bombs and the pilots wouldn’t do it,” Raddatz said. “They gave me all the cockpit audio and it tells a compelling story. It was a very dynamic, real story.”

The “This Week” co-host casually mentioned “crazy times in Ramadi, Iraq and Afghanistan” among past adventures in areas that would terrify the average American. She has a wall outside her office that is filled with mementos from those trips, including an American flag that was inside the cockpit of her F-15E.

Raddatz, an expert in both politics and foreign affairs, admitted it’s become easier for her to pack for a trip to Baghdad than most U.S. destinations, because she has so much experience heading to war-torn areas of the world. She says the “most dangerous” thing she’s ever done was cross a river near Jalalabad, a city in eastern Afghanistan, on a homemade raft that was constructed with wooden boards and a half-inflated tube.

“My guide was an eight-year-old boy,” Raddatz said. “We went up to Jalalabad and it wasn’t exactly calm. We walked around where Osama bin Laden once lived and the only way to get there was crossing this river.”

Raddatz often revisits material from over a decade ago and credits her long tenure at one network, ABC, for the ability to follow up on stories year after year.

“It is where I have devoted such a huge amount of my life, my career, and it is not, to me, just a story, it is really part of what I care about,” Raddatz said. “I’m not an adrenaline junkie but I need to cover those things that matter.”

We caught up with Raddatz as she prepares to host “This Week” on Sunday with guests including Ted Cruz and former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who is expected to discuss Donald Trump’s ISIS plan.

What was it like being on the USS Truman during a mission against ISIS in Syria?

I had also been out on the USS Bush when we first started going after targets in Syria.

So this wasn’t even your first time? It seems like non-military Americans would never have the opportunity to experience something like that.

Because of my long experience covering the military, I know it’s not just all about sound, power and afterburners. I also went to Afghanistan in the fall and what I wanted to see was, we keep hearing it’s non-combat. I wanted to see what non-combat looked like. It looks an awful lot like combat.

Is this still an area they claim is non-combat?

Well, Afghanistan, you know, we still lose people. It’s dangerous. It’s always dangerous. At one point I started noticing that jets were coming back not having dropped their bombs. That tells you something. Like, Why aren’t you dropping your bombs? It’s because they can’t find the targets.

OK, I’m sold. You’re a badass. What’s it like to share a Sunday show with George Stephanopoulos?

I love the combination because George just has politics in his DNA and approaches it in a fascinating way. We can both watch the State of the Union and he’ll see things that I don’t see, and I’ll see things that he won’t see. We bring different things to the table. There is nobody in politics I respect more than George.

How did you start to take “This Week” outside of the studio to report from the field, which is rare for a Sunday morning show?

Right, which I love more than anything. I am a reporter and will always be a reporter. That’s my first love. There is no way I’m ever giving that up.