Reporter’s Notebook: Martha Raddatz on Her Sixth Trip to Afghanistan This Year

By Kate McCarthy

Dec 6, 2010 8:13am

I’m in Kabul, Afghanistan with my colleague Martha Raddatz who writes about her sixth trip to the country this year alone. Here is her report: Kabul, Afghanistan — This is my sixth trip to Afghanistan this year, and it is now taking on the same familiarity that I had covering the war in Iraq for so many years.  There is a routine to the long exhausting flight, to the arrival at the chaos of baggage claim in Kabul, the long walk to the awaiting car balancing body armor and helmet on the baggage carts , and to finally settling in to the familiarity of the ABC News bureau. It is a pleasure to see the marvelous people who work with us here.  I always have the same room (which the talented Nick Schifrin takes when I am not here)  so I stash a couple of down pillows,  favorite soaps, a coffee pot and a few other “comfort” items in the closet.  I put up a picture of my kids on the desk, hook up my small ipod speakers and get to work. There is also a routine in the people I visit. Since July I have always gone along on a “battlefield circulation” with Major General John Campbell. I have known MG Campbell since the early days of the war in Iraq. He is now the commander of the 101st Airborne Division , or as they are known  “The Screaming Eagles, ” and he has overall command of what is known as Regional Command-East, all of Eastern Afghanistan and a part of the south.  
Caption: Maj. Gen. Campbell flying over Kunar Province
Photo credit: Martha Raddatz/ABC News With the incredible help of LTC Patrick Seiber, we are always able to cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time.  MG Campbell is always open and forthright about what is going on here.  He is proud of the progress but does not try to avoid talking about the complications and challenges.  The pace he and the soldiers keep is extraordinary. No one seems to get more than four hours of sleep a night (except, thankfully, his pilots and air crew!) and yet they are clear headed and energetic. Puts me to shame.  But what I like most about MG Campbell is his deep and sincere love for his soldiers.  As of today, he has lost close to 100 soldiers from the 101st  in just  six months here, and I know every one has hurt him profoundly. He tears up when he talks about them. He carries cards with each of their names in his pocket or rucksack. He knows there will be more loss. So whatever your feelings about the war, remember that there are a lot of people over here trying to succeed.  
Caption: My feet dangling out of a Blackhawk helicopter, flying over Afghanistan, Sept. 2010.
Photo credit: Martha Raddatz/ABC News –Martha Raddatz Click here for ABC News' full coverage of the war in Afghanistan.

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