ABC ‘s Martha Raddatz was given unprecedented access to the U.S.-led coalition operations center for the Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve. In layman’s terms, it’s the secret place where the military is trying to take down ISIS.
Raddatz is the only correspondent to be granted access to the center. In fact, it’s the first time cameras have been inside. We caught up with Raddatz for 5 Questions about obtaining access, safety concerns and even dining on goat while in Iraq — a country she’s been to more than 20 times.
TVNewser: How important is it to your safety and that of your crew to keep your location secret?
Raddatz: In this case it had to do with the “sensitivities” of the host nation. Officials from the country we were in do not acknowledge publicly that there is a massive U.S. military presence on its soil. The U.S. military is sensitive to that as well.
TVNewser: So, where were you exactly?– I’m just kidding. How did you obtain access into the command center?
Raddatz: We have been working on trying to get access for months. You have to ask the right people and keep at it. Between my long experience covering the Pentagon and that of our digital journalist, Luis Martinez, we worked this very hard.
TVNewser: Was there any moment during this assignment in which you were scared that something bad may happen to you or your crew?
Raddatz: Not on this assignment but there have been plenty recently. We were in Iraq and went out on the frontlines with Iraqi forces battling ISIS in Al Anbar province. The Iraqis said they were going to put us in Humvees but instead they had us drive our SUVs. I was uncomfortable with that arrangement because we stood out in our large white unarmored vehicles. And unlike when traveling with the U.S. military, no one was telling us where we were going or what to expect. So when there was a lot of artillery fire when we arrived at our first location, we had no idea what it was.
When things are tense, I always tend to joke with the crew. So there was a lot of joking that day. But fear is a good thing. Even the U.S. military rejects people who are “fearless.” They are called “NAFODs” That stands for “No apparent fear of death.” Those are not the kind of people they want because they not only put themselves in danger but others as well. The key is managing fear. I have become pretty good at that!
TVNewser: What is the food situation when you’re on an assignment like this? I’m assuming you can’t just order a pizza or go out for a nice steak.
Raddatz: In Iraq that day, we ate with the Iraqi forces at a huge communal table. Goat and rice. Largely done with your hands. But I have ordered plenty of pizza on the road once we get back to where we stay. In Kabul, the pizza is my favorite.
TVNewser: Sports Illustrated writer Peter King called your commencement speech at Kenyon College the “best advice” he’s read from any speaker this year. This is the snippet he singled out:
Let me offer you all some very quick practical advice on how to succeed in the workplace. Eight simple words. ‘Of course, I would love to work late.’ Now I want all of you to practice. Turn to your neighbor, and say it. ‘Of course, I would love to work late.’
So, who gave you the best advice you’ve ever received? And what was the advice?
Raddatz: I was thrilled with Peter King’s column because my son, who graduated from Kenyon and thus was watching his mom give the speech, was far more impressed with a Sports Illustrated nod than anything else! The best advice I got was from my own Mom. She told me I could do whatever I wanted in life. That was not particularly apparent when I was growing up, but I always heard her voice in my head.