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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10:29am

Mon November 24, 2014
U.S.

Secretary Of Defense Hagel To Resign

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

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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 Mon November 24, 2014 1:02 pm

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

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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

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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

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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/.

4:45am

Wed July 23, 2014
National Security

U.S. Intelligence Tracking What Happened To Flight MH17

Originally published on Wed July 23, 2014 7:51 am

Senior U.S. intelligence officials say they have proof that a surface-to-air missile was launched when the airliner went down and have ID'd people in a recorded conversation implicating the culprits.

4:30pm

Mon July 21, 2014
National Security

In Bloody Battle, Medal Of Honor Recipient Held His Post Alone

Originally published on Mon July 21, 2014 6:35 pm

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At the White House today, President Obama awarded the nation's highest award for combat bravery. He presented the Medal of Honor to former Sergeant Ryan Pitts. In 2008, Pitts fought off a large Taliban force at an Afghan outpost. He did this for a time alone and wounded until the Americans could turn the tide of the battle.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: As one of his teammates said, had it not been for Ryan Pitts, that post almost certainly would've been overrun.

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3:16am

Mon July 7, 2014
National Security

The Marines Are Looking For A Few Good (Combat-Ready) Women

Originally published on Tue July 8, 2014 9:51 am

Sgt. Jarrod Simmons speaks to his squad of Marines before they head out on a training march with 55-pound packs on Feb. 22, 2013, at Camp Lejeune, N.C. The Marines and the other military branches must open combat jobs to women in 2016. More than 160 female Marines are taking part in a grueling training program that begins this summer.
Scott Olson Getty Images

The challenge for the Marines, and for the Army, is how to open up ground combat jobs to women in January 2016, without lowering standards.

And here's where things stand in the Marines.

Eighty-five female Marines already made it through an infantry training course last fall at Camp Lejeune, N.C., which included drills such as attacking a mock enemy force, hidden in a pine forest. That course lasted eight weeks, and the men and women all completed the same training.

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4:15pm

Tue June 24, 2014
Iraq

U.S. Faces Challenges In Shoring Up Iraq's Crumbling Military

Originally published on Tue June 24, 2014 8:19 pm

The Iraqi army left behind equipment, including body armor and vehicles, as Sunni militants overran the northern city of Mosul earlier this month.
Safin Hamed AFP/Getty Images

Rick Brennan remembers sitting around Baghdad back in 2011 with some fellow U.S. military planners. Talk turned to the Iraqi army of the future. In one scenario, they pictured the Iraqi army falling apart, splintering along ethnic lines.

"We painted a worst-case scenario, a nightmare scenario, that was exactly what we're seeing take place right now," Brennan says.

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3:33pm

Mon June 23, 2014
The Two-Way

Under Attack By ISIS, Iraq Agrees To Give U.S. Troops Immunity

Originally published on Mon June 23, 2014 3:44 pm

Iraqi Kurdish forces take position near Taza Khormato as they fight jihadist militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) positioned five kilometers away in Bashir on Monday.
Karim Sahib AFP/Getty Images

Remember last week when President Obama said he planned to send up to 300 military advisers to Iraq?

Well, the U.S. couldn't do it until the Iraqi government gave U.S. soldiers immunity from prosecution, through what's called a "diplomatic note." If those U.S. soldiers committed any crimes or had any legal troubles while advising Iraqis, the U.S. wanted to handle any prosecutions.

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4:20pm

Fri June 20, 2014
National Security

In Obama's Iraq Plan, An Answer That Breeds More Questions

Originally published on Fri June 20, 2014 7:08 pm

President Obama says that up to 300 U.S. military personnel will be heading to Iraq to advise Iraqi forces, not to serve in combat. But the proposal raises more questions: Will those U.S. forces heading out with Iraqi troops be armed? What are the rules of engagement? And how long will they stay?

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4:11pm

Fri June 13, 2014
Iraq

Obama Rules Out Ground Troops; What Else Can U.S. Do In Iraq?

Originally published on Fri June 13, 2014 6:23 pm

President Obama said that he will help the Iraqi military break the momentum of the militants on the march to Baghdad. The Pentagon said that one possible option could include airstrikes. But the president said that any military help must include political solutions from the Iraqi government, which has helped fuel the unrest by failing to reach out to its Sunni minority.

4:33pm

Tue June 10, 2014
News

Green Berets Are Killed In A Possible Case Of Friendly Fire

Originally published on Tue June 10, 2014 8:31 pm

Five U.S. soldiers have been killed recently in Afghanistan, the result of what might have been friendly fire from an American airplane. The deaths, if confirmed, would constitute the worst case of friendly fire in the war so far.

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

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4:06pm

Mon June 9, 2014
News

Despite Details Of Bergdahl's Captivity, Answers Stay Scattered

Originally published on Mon June 9, 2014 6:42 pm

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From NPR News this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

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5:00pm

Wed June 4, 2014
National Security

Despite Video Of Bergdahl's Release, Questions Dog His Capture

Originally published on Wed June 4, 2014 7:18 pm

Even as the Taliban released a video of Army Sgt. Bergdahl's release, questions continue to surround his initial disappearance. Bergdahl has said he was captured by the Taliban while lagging behind on a patrol. In a classified report produced in 2010, the Army paints him as a soldier troubled by U.S. policy, but it does not go so far as to call him a deserter. Still, many wonder whether Bergdahl planned to return before his capture.

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4:08pm

Wed June 4, 2014
Politics

Prisoner Swap Ignites Political Firestorm On The Hill

Originally published on Wed June 4, 2014 7:18 pm

Everything the Obama administration touches seems to set off a political firestorm. The latest involves Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl and the prisoner exchange that led to his release by the Taliban.

4:36pm

Mon June 2, 2014
National Security

As Bergdahl Returns Home, Accusations Of Desertion Surface

Originally published on Tue June 3, 2014 9:26 am

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4:17pm

Tue May 27, 2014
Afghanistan

Obama Sets A Number For U.S. Troop Levels In Afghanistan

Originally published on Tue June 10, 2014 9:53 am

President Obama intends to keep a force of 9,800 American troops after the end of 2014. The troops will remain in the country in order to train Afghan forces and support counterterrorism operations. By the end of 2016, all U.S. troops would leave Afghanistan.

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

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4:04am

Mon May 26, 2014
National Security

One Of Many: Remembering A Fallen Son On Memorial Day

Originally published on Mon May 26, 2014 7:20 pm

The Boelk family celebrates Christmas in 2009. This is the last family photo that was taken before their son James was killed in Afghanistan.
Courtesy of the Boelk family

Sometime on Monday, Dave and Cilicia Boelk will visit the grave of their son James, not far from their home in Manassas, Va. It's Memorial Day.

Lance Cpl. James Boelk was a Marine killed in Afghanistan in the fall of 2010. Dave Boelk admits that Memorial Day was never all that special. Like most Americans it just signaled the beginning of summer, a day of picnics and car sales.

"It really didn't mean a whole lot to me either until our son was killed, so I can't slight people for going off and having a good time," Boelk says.

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4:39pm

Thu May 15, 2014
Africa

To Help Nigeria Find Missing Girls, U.S. Sends In Airborne Support

Originally published on Thu May 15, 2014 8:18 pm

The U.S. has deployed surveillance aircraft to Nigeria in the search for the more than 250 schoolgirls still missing. Imagery gathered by the aircraft and satellites will be shared with the Nigerian government.

4:57pm

Tue May 13, 2014
Around the Nation

Medal Of Honor Recipient Dodged Bullets To Help Wounded Soldiers

Originally published on Tue May 13, 2014 7:26 pm

President Obama awards the Medal of Honor to former Army Sgt. Kyle White, who saved the life of a fellow soldier, called in U.S. airstrikes and helped evacuate the wounded during a firefight with the Afghan Taliban in 2007.
AP

President Obama on Tuesday awarded the Medal of Honor, the military's highest award for combat bravery, to former Army Sgt. Kyle White. Obama described how — during a firefight in Afghanistan — White single-handedly saved the life of a fellow soldier and then helped evacuate the wounded during a firefight with the Afghan Taliban.

" 'When you're deployed,' he later said, 'those people become your family. What you really care about is, I want to get this guy to the left and to the right home,' " Obama said of White.

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5:20am

Tue May 13, 2014
Middle East

Syrian Opposition Leader To Meet With White House Official

Originally published on Tue May 13, 2014 9:58 am

Key Syrian opposition leader Ahmed al-Jarba is expected at the White House on Tuesday to meet with National Security Advisor Susan Rice. The Syrian civil war has been raging for more than three years.

4:11pm

Fri May 9, 2014
Middle East

After Setbacks In Battle, Syrian Rebels Seek Victories In D.C.

Originally published on Fri May 9, 2014 8:45 pm

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6:05pm

Wed April 30, 2014
The Two-Way

Defense Intelligence Agency Chief Will Step Down

Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn.
DIA Public Affairs

The Army general who heads the Defense Intelligence Agency is leaving a year early and retiring.

Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, but sources say he's stepping down because he's fed up with bureaucratic fights in Washington.

Flynn is expected to announce his retirement within the next week.

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4:31pm

Thu April 24, 2014
Middle East

CIA Acts In Syria, Slipping Weapons To Rebels In Secret

Originally published on Thu April 24, 2014 7:17 pm

Transcript

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The relentless use of conventional weapons by Syria's government against its citizens may have pushed Washington to step up its involvement there. A new covert U.S. program is sending arms to Syria to help rebel forces. Another reason for that new effort: the failure of diplomatic talks in Geneva to resolve the three-year-old civil war. NPR Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman has learned details of the arms program.

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