Barbara Starr On Covering a Pentagon Headed By the Man Called ‘Mad Dog’

By A.J. Katz 

Veteeran CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr has reported from some of the most hazardous, conflict-ridden places on the planet: from Iraq and Afghanistan, to the China-North Korea border, and the Horn of Africa, always mindful of the men and women in harms way.

“24 hours a day, somewhere in the world there is a young soldier, sailor, airman or Marine standing watch or going on patrol in a very difficult part of the world,” Starr told TVNewser. “We all might be at work, out to dinner, or the shopping mall, but they are out there on duty all the time.”

An expert on military and intelligence operations, we asked Starr whether the Pres.-elect Trump’s seeming antagonism toward the CIA will impact the agency’s day-to-day work.


“Well, I think the entire news media will be watching to see if in fact the President-elect’s view will influence, and if so, how it might influence the work of the agency,” said Starr. “Journalists are going to have to do what they do best – report, report, report. Get multiple sources, attribute your information to sources as much as possible and tell the public what we know. Nothing beats having the facts.”

And how about Trump’s selection of Gen. James “Mad Dog” Mattis as Secretary of Defense? As CNN’s Pentagon correspondent, she will be reporting on the world’s second largest military (after China) with the world’s largest budget (nearly $600 billion a year.)

“I have covered General Mattis for many years, and he is always an interesting guy,” said Starr. “We will all learn who Secretary Mattis is. But don’t get caught up in the more colorful anecdotes you read about him. This is one of the most serious minded intellectuals you will ever meet.”

Marking 15 years at CNN, Starr says one experience stands out: “The trip I made on a medical evacuation plane out of Afghanistan. 20 badly injured troops, on stretchers on a C-17 aircraft being flown to safety. It was truly a planeload of duty and sacrifice of those young troops.”

For AC360 this week, Starr interviewed Air Force Lt. Col. Melchizedek “Kato” Martinez, whose wife Gail Martinez was killed during the March terror attack in the Brussels airport. Their four kids suffered serious burns, shrapnel and broken bones in the blast. Martinez is now raising his kids on his own.

“The Martinez’s are an amazing military family, and they remind all of us that everyday life really is fragile,” Starr told us. “Everything can change in an instant. ISIS has caused such misery and pain to so many people around the world. I think the Martinez’s show us they will not let ISIS define who they are.”