Paula Broadwell a mirror image of affair lover David Petraeus

Like the soldier with whom she had a career-destroying affair, Paula Broadwell was ambitious, high achieving and high-energy

PUBLISHED : Monday, 12 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 12 November, 2012, 11:01am

In a January television interview following publication of her now very famous biography, All In: The Education of General David Petraeus, Paula Broadwell described her subject as high-energy, ambitious and tenacious.

She might have been talking about herself. In many ways, Broadwell, an Army Reserve lieutenant colonel, mirrors the man with whom she's accused of having an extramarital affair.

"Petraeus once joked I was his avatar," she said in January.

Both are West Point graduates. Both have thrived in high-pressure situations, including war zones. And both are fitness fanatics. In Afghanistan in 2010, Broadwell regularly interviewed Petraeus while they went on runs together.

On Friday, Petraeus, America's most-decorated four-star general, resigned as CIA director after admitting to the affair. Almost immediately, Broadwell emerged as the other woman.

On Saturday, the scandal got stranger, as newspapers reported that the FBI stumbled on to the affair after Broadwell sent harassing emails to another woman close to Petraeus. The recipient of the emails was so frightened, The Washington Post reported, she went to the FBI for protection and to help track down the sender.

Broadwell, a counterterrorism expert, moved to Charlotte in 2009 with her husband, Dr Scott Broadwell, a radiologist with Charlotte Radiology, and their two young sons.

In a short time, Broadwell made many friends and built a high profile, particularly through volunteer work to raise money for wounded soldier organisations.

Like Petraeus, Broadwell has built a life of achievements. She grew up in Bismarck, North Dakota, where she was high school homecoming queen and valedictorian. She graduated top of her West Point class in physical fitness and earned a master's degree from Harvard. She served in active duty, worked in counter-intelligence and lived in multiple countries.

She met Petraeus in 2006 when he spoke at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, where she was a graduate student. When she told him about her research interests, he handed her his card and offered his help.

Later, she began her doctoral dissertation, which included a study of his leadership. In 2010, when Petraeus took charge in Afghanistan, she decided to put the dissertation on hold to write a book. Vernon Loeb, an editor at The Washington Post, helped her write it, but she did the on-the-ground research, visiting Afghanistan six times, embedding with troops and interviewing Petraeus for hours.

To finish the book last autumn, she often kept a gruelling schedule. During the editing process, she said in an earlier Observer interview, she would go to bed at 2am and be up by 4am.

Once the book was published in January, Broadwell travelled the country doing media interviews and talks. And her fashionable look fit no Army officer stereotype. She favoured sleeveless outfits that showed off toned, muscular arms.

The 400-page biography is a flattering portrait of the general.

When she appeared on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Stewart joked: "I mean the most controversial thing is, is he awesome, or incredibly awesome?"

After the book, Broadwell had said one of her next tasks was to finish her dissertation. Petraeus was serving as an adviser. She had described the 60-year-old general as a mentor, adding "he makes me read books that he read when he was young".

She also continued her fitness regimen. The 1.73m, 60kg Broadwell made 30km bike rides, ran up to 13 kilometres a week and lifted weights. And her body fat? A lean 13 per cent.

Even her Linkedln profile exuded uber-competence, listing her interests as surfing, kickboxing, wine tasting, foreign affairs and small arms marksmanship, among other things.

As of Saturday, she had become the talk of the nation, but not for her many achievements. Her name was the No 1 search term on Google, with more than a million inquiries since Friday.