Tom Bowman

If you ask NPR reporter Tom Bowman about his career aspirations, he'd probably tell you he already has the best job possible: covering the Pentagon for NPR. For Bowman, coming to NPR was an "excellent opportunity to work at a great organization with a world-wide reputation, a huge listenership, and stability" and to work closely with "some of the best journalists around."

Bowman's nuanced NPR coverage reflects his years of experience on his current beat. Before coming to NPR in April 2006, Bowman spent nine years as a Pentagon reporter at the Baltimore Sun. His familiarity and knowledge of the people and issues connected with the Pentagon, he says, are great assets to his coverage.

During his 19 years at the Baltimore Sun, Bowman also covered the Maryland Statehouse, the United States Congress, the U.S. Naval Academy, and the National Security Agency (NSA). His coverage of racial and gender discrimination at NSA led to a Pentagon investigation in 1994.

Bowman says he has been groomed for journalism since a young age, recalling his years at a parochial school just outside of Boston. The strict Catholic nuns and scholarly Xaverian brothers were "good preparation for covering the Pentagon," he reflects. "You are taught how to hone your questions and develop a thick skin." Bowman also recognizes that the "training under lots of Irish relatives – and friends – who can charm their way into a situation and talk a dog off a meat truck," have been assets to his career.

Bowman initially imagined his career path would take him into academia as a history, government, or journalism professor. However, after graduation he landed a job at the Patriot Ledger in Quincy, Mass., and thrived amid "the deadlines, the competition, and the personalities both at a newspaper and in the political realm." Bowman also worked for the Daily Transcript in Dedham, Mass., and then as a reporter at States News Service, writing for the Miami Herald and the Anniston (Ala.) Star.

Over his career, Bowman as been honored with several awards for news writing and features, from the New England Press Association and the Maryland Press Association. He is also a co-winner of a 2006 National Headliners' Award for stories on the lack of advanced tourniquets for U.S. troops in Iraq.

NPR's White House Correspondent David Greene says of Bowman, "Tom is so well-sourced. Anytime I would talk to someone at the Pentagon or in the military, they would not only know Tom, but would compliment his reporting and pass on a hello. And what a team player — Tom is always willing to pitch in and share his expertise in any way that makes our stories better."

Bowman earned a B.A. in history from St. Michael's College in Winooski, Vt., and a master's degree in American Studies at Boston College.

If he had his choice of locales, Bowman's geographic inclinations would take him far from the DC area; he'd prefer to spend summers on Monhegan Island, Maine, and pass the winters skiing in Jackson Hole, Wyo. Till then, you'll find him on NPR.

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1:54pm

Thu May 21, 2015
Parallels

He Calmed Kandahar. But At What Cost?

Originally published on Thu May 21, 2015 7:07 pm

Lt. Gen. Abdul Raziq is the police chief widely credited with bringing much greater security to the southern Afghan city of Kandahar. But critics accuse him of human rights abuses including torture and extrajudicial killings.
David Gilkey NPR

The southern Afghan city of Kandahar was the birthplace of the Taliban and has long been considered one the most dangerous parts of Afghanistan.

But the city has grown peaceful in recent years, and much of the credit has been given to an American ally: Lt. Gen. Abdul Raziq, the provincial police chief.

On a recent day, the most feared man in Kandahar is slumped in a cheap blue plastic chair on a wide patio. He's slight and wiry, with a shy smile. He could be mistaken for a security guard at this palatial home of marble and chandeliers.

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4:58am

Mon May 18, 2015
Iraq

ISIS Takes Control Of Ramadi, Key Iraqi City

Originally published on Mon May 18, 2015 9:00 am

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

3:57am

Thu May 7, 2015
Parallels

Afghan Army Makes Progress; Will Government Services Follow?

Originally published on Thu May 7, 2015 12:43 pm

Brig. Gen. Akram Samme coordinates his men at Camp Eagle in the Shah Joy district of Zabul province in southern Afghanistan. He is a commander in the major operation against the Taliban that's currently under way.
David Gilkey NPR

Fuel trucks, cargo trucks and buses zip north along Highway One toward Kabul, just like any other morning. They seem not to notice what's above them on a vast desert plateau that overlooks the highway in Zabul province in southern Afghanistan.

Dozens of soldiers and police mill about, awaiting orders. There are armored vehicles, towed artillery, an ambulance and a long line of Humvees. Each one has a massive Afghan flag snapping in the breeze, like banners from some ancient army.

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3:25am

Thu April 30, 2015
Parallels

The Frightened Vietnamese Kid Who Became A U.S. Army General

Originally published on Thu April 30, 2015 11:07 am

Brig. Gen. Viet Luong of the 1st Cavalry Division came to the United States in the 1970s after his family fled Vietnam in the waning days of the war there. He's now leading the effort to train Afghan soldiers to fight the Taliban.
David Gilkey NPR

Brig. Gen. Viet Luong sits on a case of MREs, the soldiers' daily meals. He's inside a cavernous hanger at an Afghan army base outside the southern city of Kandahar.

A couple dozen American and Australian soldiers lounge on green cots lining the sides. Banners of U.S. military units hang on the walls. Between the troops is a 6-foot-tall shipment of Girl Scout cookies.

Luong's job is to train the Afghan military to fight a guerrilla force, the Taliban. But he's willing to talk about another guerrilla war, long ago.

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3:53am

Tue April 28, 2015
Parallels

On Its Own, The Afghan Army Takes The Fight To The Taliban

Originally published on Tue April 28, 2015 1:48 pm

An artillery gun fires a round at Taliban fighters in the hills of Nangahar Province.
David Gilkey NPR

The call comes into the Afghan battalion headquarters, a small concrete building that once housed American Green Berets. The Taliban are attacking a police checkpoint under construction in the foothills of Nangahar Province in eastern Afghanistan, a short distance from the border with Pakistan.

The Afghan soldiers gather in a line, lifting their palms and praying for a safe mission. They hop in their trucks and head up a winding dirt road. The unfinished checkpoint can be seen in the hazy distance.

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11:42am

Mon April 27, 2015
Parallels

With The U.S. In The Background, Afghan Commandos Step It Up

Originally published on Tue April 28, 2015 6:40 am

Afghan commandos move through a smokescreen during a training exercise at Camp Commando on the outskirts of Kabul, Afghanistan.
David Gilkey NPR

With the U.S. combat role over in Afghanistan, the country's security now depends on men like Sgt. Maj. Faiz Mohammed Wafa, one of the leaders of the Afghan commandos.

On this day, the Afghan sergeant is screaming at trainees at Camp Commando, a training center built by the Americans in the hills south of Kabul. Two dozen trainees are seated in the dirt in full combat gear. Wafa is trying to teach them the proper way to clear a house, searching room to room for insurgents.

"I told you 10 times," he says. "Hold your weapons correctly!"

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6:25pm

Sat April 18, 2015
World

Suicide Blast Kills More Than 30 In Afghanistan

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

6:34pm

Thu April 9, 2015
The Two-Way

Biden Says ISIS 'No Longer On The Move' In Iraq

Vice President Biden delivers remarks on U.S. policy in Iraq at the National Defense University in Washington, D.C., on Thursday.
Alex Wong Getty Images

Vice President Joe Biden says that the self-proclaimed Islamic State is no longer on the move in Iraq.

"The jury's still out, but the momentum is in the right direction," Biden said in a speech at National Defense University in Washington, in advance of a visit next week by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.

Biden laid out the destructive path of ISIS — also called ISIL — citing the collapse of the Iraqi Army, the fall of Mosul and the "slaughter" and "ethnic cleansing" that followed.

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5:20pm

Thu March 26, 2015
National Security

Testing The Standards: Do Gender Differences Matter For Combat?

Originally published on Thu March 26, 2015 8:01 pm

The man who designed the training experiment to determine if female Marines should be allowed into combat positions is not a Marine himself, but a civilian scientist. His data could also help the Marines justify their own standards for what makes a person fit for combat.

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3:59pm

Wed March 25, 2015
National Security

Can Female Marines Carry The Load And Kill The Enemy?

Originally published on Thu May 28, 2015 6:10 pm

Sgt. Courtney White carries her machine gun before a live fire exercise at the Marine base at Twentynine Palms, Calif.
David Gilkey NPR

More than a dozen Marines from Alpha Company fan out across California's Mojave Desert, far into the distance. Machine-gun fire gives them cover. The small forms dash ahead. Some drop to one knee, others fall on their stomachs, firing at pop-up targets.

Only one woman is part of this group. Until last fall, Sgt. Kelly Brown was fueling helicopters and trucks. Now she's running with an assault rifle.

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6:50pm

Tue March 24, 2015
Politics

U.S. Reconsiders Troop Withdrawal Plan In Afghanistan

Originally published on Wed March 25, 2015 12:40 pm

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And we're going to talk more now about the decision to keep about 10,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan through the end of this year. NPR Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman is here in the studio.

Welcome, Tom.

TOM BOWMAN, BYLINE: Hey, Audie.

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3:24am

Thu March 19, 2015
National Security

As Women Try Out For Armor Units, 'If You Can Hack It, You Can Hack It'

Originally published on Wed March 25, 2015 5:03 pm

Lance Cpl. Brittany Dunklee talks with her fellow Marines.
David Gilkey NPR

It's a recent morning out in California's Mojave Desert, and Marine Lance Cpls. Paula Pineda and Julia Carroll are struggling to pick up and maneuver Carl. He's a 220-pound dummy, and a stand-in for a wounded Marine.

Carroll's knees buckle for a moment, but as a dusty wind picks up, the two women pull Carl off their light armored vehicle. They carry him to safety, careful not to let his head drag on the rocky ground.

Both women are out of breath.

Pineda is 5 foot 2. On the back of her helmet is a piece of masking tape with the words "Mad Max."

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3:22am

Tue March 17, 2015
National Security

In Intense Desert Training, Marine Women Fight For Place On Front Lines

Originally published on Wed March 25, 2015 5:03 pm

Female and male Marines prepare for a live-fire exercise at Twentynine Palms, a training camp in the Mojave Desert.
David Gilkey NPR

In the dry and craggy hills of California's Mojave Desert, Capt. Ray Kaster tries to shout over the din of a machine gun to be heard by Alpha Company, the unit of Marines he's working with during a month of rigorous instruction at Twentynine Palms training center.

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5:38am

Tue March 3, 2015
Iraq

Advised By Iran's Military, Iraqi Forces Launch Effort To Retake Tikrit

Originally published on Tue March 3, 2015 12:19 pm

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

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5:09pm

Fri February 6, 2015
Middle East

Despite Coalition Partners, U.S. Has Done Most Airstrikes Against ISIS

Originally published on Sat February 7, 2015 2:24 pm

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

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12:35pm

Thu January 29, 2015
The Two-Way

U.S. Classifies Some Basic Statistics About Afghan Security Forces

The American command in Afghanistan has for the first time in six years classified detailed statistics about the Afghan security forces — everything from equipment and training to attrition.

Gen. John Campbell, who is leading the NATO coalition's non-combat mission in Afghanistan, said he now considers all that sensitive operational information that could help the Taliban.

Campbell said he decided to classify details about the Afghan forces because they could be used by insurgent fighters to threaten both Afghan and U.S. forces.

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5:07pm

Thu January 22, 2015
Middle East

Yemen In Chaos Amid Reports Of Government's Collapse

Originally published on Thu January 22, 2015 9:27 pm

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

4:51pm

Thu January 15, 2015
Iraq

Hundreds Of U.S. Military Trainers Headed For Iraq

Originally published on Mon January 26, 2015 7:34 pm

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

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4:56pm

Wed December 31, 2014
Parallels

After Years Of Conflict, U.S. Mission Shifts In Afghanistan

Originally published on Thu January 1, 2015 6:01 pm

U.S. Gen. John Campbell (left) and Command Sgt. Maj. Delbert Byers open the Operation Resolute Support flag during a ceremony at the International Security Assistance Force headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan on Sunday.
Massoud Hossaini AP

On this last day of 2014, America's troops in Afghanistan are still a combat force.

On Thursday, their mission changes.

"We will be ending our combat mission in Afghanistan, obviously because of the extraordinary service of the men and women in the American armed forces," President Obama said during a recent visit with Marines and their families in Hawaii.

But there will still be more than 10,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

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12:44pm

Tue December 9, 2014
National Security

Senate Panel's Report On CIA Calls Harsh Tactics Ineffective

Originally published on Tue December 9, 2014 5:16 pm

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

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10:29am

Mon November 24, 2014
U.S.

Secretary Of Defense Hagel To Resign

Originally published on Mon November 24, 2014 1:02 pm

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

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3:42am

Mon November 24, 2014
Back At Base

Combat Training: Can Female Marines Get The Job Done?

Originally published on Wed November 26, 2014 9:46 am

Katie Gorz (left) performs the ammo can lift next to male Marines as they go through the combat fitness test. The Marine Corps is experimenting with inserting some women into combat infantry roles that have historically been limited to men. At Camp Lejeune, female Marines are undergoing the same training as their male counterparts for combat arms.
Travis Dove for NPR

NPR — along with seven public radio stations around the country — is chronicling the lives of America's troops where they live. We're calling the project "Back at Base."

Lance Cpl. Jasmine Abrego is an office clerk who dreams of becoming a warrior.

She's flat on her stomach in the dirt, in full combat gear. Suddenly she pops up, slings a 44-pound metal tripod on her back and lurches forward in a crablike run. Finally, she slams the tripod to the ground. A male Marine slaps a .50-caliber machine gun into place.

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4:46am

Thu October 30, 2014
Parallels

With Limited Gains, U.S. Bombing Campaign Faces Growing Criticism

Originally published on Thu October 30, 2014 2:25 pm

Iraqi soldiers walk in Jurf al-Sakhr, south of the capital Baghdad, on Monday after Iraqi military forces retook the area from Islamic State militants. Iraqi forces, supported by U.S. airstrikes, have made limited gains in recent months, but critics are questioning whether the U.S. strategy is likely to succeed.
Haidar Mohammed Ali AFP/Getty Images

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has been on the defensive recently about the strategy to take on the Islamic State. American warplanes have been bombing targets in Iraq and Syria, but militant fighters are still on the move.

"We have made it very clear, I have and President Obama has, that this is a long, difficult effort," Hagel said.

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4:50pm

Wed October 1, 2014
Afghanistan

With New Security Agreement, U.S. Mission In Afghanistan Continues

Originally published on Wed October 1, 2014 6:14 pm

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

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5:43pm

Wed September 24, 2014
Middle East

Second Round Of Airstrikes In Syria Target Oil Assets

Originally published on Fri September 26, 2014 3:29 pm

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

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4:12pm

Thu August 28, 2014
U.S.

With Drones In Flight Over Syria, Questions Of Airstrikes Rise With Them

Originally published on Thu August 28, 2014 7:28 pm

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

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4:06pm

Fri August 22, 2014
Iraq

With Initial U.S. Airstrikes A Success, Will They Expand?

Originally published on Sat August 23, 2014 12:21 pm

Peshmerga fighters inspect the remains of a car bearing an image of the trademark jihadist flag, after it was targeted by an American airstrike in the village of Baqouba, north of Mosul. The car reportedly belonged to Islamic State militants
Ahmad Al-Rubaye AFP/Getty Images

Pentagon officials announced still another U.S. airstrike in Iraq on Friday. Fighter and attack aircraft hit Islamic State armored vehicles and machine guns.

That makes nearly 100 U.S. bombing runs in the past few weeks, and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said that enabled Iraqi and Kurdish forces to fight the group — also known as ISIL — around two northern Iraqi cities.

"American airstrikes and American arms and assistance helped Iraqi and Kurdish forces blunt ISIL's advances around Irbil and helped the Iraqis retake and hold Mosul Dam," Hagel said.

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7:45pm

Tue August 5, 2014
National Security

Victim Of Insider Attack, Gen. Harold Greene Was An Engineer By Training

Originally published on Wed August 6, 2014 9:46 am

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

7:20am

Tue July 29, 2014
Middle East

For Two Years, He Smuggled Photos Of Torture Victims Out Of Syria

Originally published on Tue July 29, 2014 3:01 pm

This is one of the some 55,000 images the former Syrian military police photographer known as Caesar smuggled out of the country between 2011 and 2013. The regime used numbers — written on white cards and sometimes directly on the skin — to identify the dead, which branch of the Syrian government had held them, and when they died.
Courtesy of Syrian Emergency Task Force

Warning: This report contains descriptions and an image that could disturb some readers.

The savage and protracted conflict in Syria has left more than 170,000 dead. Now, there are allegations of torture and killing of political prisoners opposed to the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Those allegations appear to be supported by evidence: tens of thousands of photographs.

The man who says he took the pictures worked as a military police photographer for the Assad regime and defected last year.

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4:45pm

Fri July 25, 2014
Politics

Army War College Opens A Probe Into Sen. Walsh's Alleged Plagiarism

Originally published on Fri July 25, 2014 7:40 pm

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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