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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3:29am

Wed July 4, 2012
Those Who Serve

Grandfathers' Stories Inspire Military Service

Originally published on Wed July 4, 2012 10:04 am

Capt. Jared Larpenteur plans a combat mission at the 82nd Airborne's Delta Company command center in Ghazni province, Afghanistan, earlier this year.
Amy Walters NPR

A very small percentage of Americans are now serving in the military — fewer than 1 percent. Some are looking for direction. Others are inspired by a sense of patriotism or by a family member who served in an earlier war. On this Independence Day, we continue with an occasional series, Those Who Serve, a look at the men and women wearing their country's uniform during a time of war.

Capt. Jared Larpenteur is from Cajun Country in Louisiana. His family never expected he'd make the military his career.

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1:30pm

Wed May 30, 2012
The Two-Way

No. 2 U.S. Commander In Afghanistan Would Like 68,000 Troops Into Next Year

Marines with Echo Company of the Second Battalion, Ninth Marines out of Camp Lejeune, guide their M-ATV, a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle in to the district government compound in Marjah, Afghanistan.
David Gilkey NPR

(NPR Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman has been embedded with U.S. troops in Afghanistan this month. On Morning Edition, he reported from the eastern province of Ghazni about what's being called "the last major combat offensive of the Afghan War." Now, he tells us about his interview with the No. 2 U.S. officer in Afghanistan, Lt. Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti.)

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3:33am

Wed May 30, 2012
Afghanistan

For U.S. Troops, One More Big Push In Afghanistan

Originally published on Thu May 31, 2012 5:48 pm

Bagi Kheyl, in the eastern province of Ghazni, is one of the villages where the 82nd Airborne has been operating as part of a broader effort to drive away the Taliban.
Amy Walters NPR

Several thousand soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division are taking part in what is being called the last major combat offensive of the Afghan War.

Their task is to clear Ghazni province in eastern Afghanistan, a Taliban stronghold and a key prize because it straddles the major roads to Kabul and the insurgent supply routes into Pakistan.

But the American troops are challenged by a stubborn enemy and a short time to finish the job.

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4:03pm

Tue May 22, 2012
Afghanistan

Former Taliban Stronghold Faces The Post-U.S. Future

Originally published on Thu May 24, 2012 11:15 am

Afghan local police officers wait outside a classroom at a training facility in Marjah. U.S. Marines are training local security forces how to maintain calm in the region.
David Gilkey NPR

If there was a place in Afghanistan synonymous with the Taliban, it was the district of Marjah in Afghanistan's southern province of Helmand.

Two years ago, thousands of U.S. Marines and British and Afghan forces descended on this checkerboard of villages, canals and fields. They pushed out the insurgents — but at a heavy cost.

Now, with U.S. combat forces on track to depart in the coming months, many are asking whether Marjah's relative peace will last after the Marines are gone.

'We Have Good Security Here'

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1:50pm

Mon May 21, 2012
All Tech Considered

Military Addresses Double-Edged Sword Of Troops On Social Media

Originally published on Mon May 21, 2012 8:21 pm

At Forward Operating Base Payne in Afghanistan's Helmand province, Marine Cpl. Jonathan Odriscoll looks at pictures of his sister on Facebook. Troop access to social media has been both a blessing and curse for the military.
Bay Ismoyo AFP/Getty Images

Inside a plywood shack at a combat outpost in Marjah, in Afghanistan's Helmand province, three Marines sit before a bank of computers provided by the military to help keep up morale. The dingy outpost is made up of a collection of tents where troops live among swarms of flies and the constant hum of generators.

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4:17pm

Thu May 17, 2012
Afghanistan

An Afghan Shoots, A Marine Dies, Mistrust Grows

Originally published on Thu May 17, 2012 7:16 pm

A Marine Corps team carries the remains of Marine Sgt. J.P. Huling, 25, of West Chester, Ohio, at Dover Air Force Base, Del., on May 9. Huling was killed three days earlier by an Afghan soldier in southern Afghanistan, one of a growing number of such shootings.
Cliff Owen AP

Sgt. J.P. Huling, a Marine from Ohio, was killed this month in southern Afghanistan.

It wasn't a roadside bomb or a Taliban sniper that killed him. It was another sergeant — an Afghan soldier known as Sgt. Zabitollah, who like many Afghans went by one name.

It was a grim coincidence that brought these two sergeants together on May 6, a Sunday afternoon, at a mud-walled compound along a desolate stretch of road in a remote corner of Afghanistan.

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5:03am

Sat May 12, 2012
Afghanistan

U.S. Military Mission: Pushing Afghans To Take Lead

Originally published on Wed May 23, 2012 10:48 am

In Afghanistan, American troops are pushing Afghans to take charge.
David Gilkey NPR

The American military has two main jobs now in Afghanistan: sweeping the remaining Taliban from safe havens and getting Afghan security forces to take charge in the fight.

On a recent day, the Afghan National Army, or ANA, is to be out front on a joint Afghan-U.S. patrol in the countryside outside Kandahar in southern Afghanistan. It may seem like a small thing, but it's actually a big deal.

Sgt. Matthew McMurray lets his platoon know.

"ANA is going to lead, too. If they don't want to lead, just stop and make them walk ahead of you," he says.

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3:47pm

Tue May 8, 2012
Afghanistan

As The Clock Ticks, Americans Train Afghan Troops

Originally published on Wed May 9, 2012 7:07 pm

U.S. troops are training Afghan soldiers to take more responsibility in the war against the Taliban. But the Afghans still depend heavily on the Americans. Here, an Afghan solider fills up gas cans with diesel fuel from a U.S. Army tanker in southern Afghanistan.
David Gilkey NPR

Just outside Kandahar, the main city in southern Afghanistan, the U.S. military is starting a new program it hopes will wean Afghan troops off American assistance.

A dozen or so American soldiers make up one of the Security Force Assistance Teams, and the goal is to help the Afghan army plan for operations and supply itself in the field.

But the mission is still a work in progress.

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11:48am

Wed May 2, 2012
The Two-Way

About 25,000 Troops May Be Needed In Afghanistan After 2014, Planners Say

When President Obama on Tuesday signed a 10-year security agreement with Afghan President Karzai, it wasn't announced how many U.S. troops would remain in Afghanistan past 2014 — the year Afghans are supposed to take over full responsibilty for security there.

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3:36am

Tue April 24, 2012
National Security

U.S. Military Wages Battle Against Misconduct

Originally published on Tue April 24, 2012 5:18 am

The Marines' most senior officers — including top commander Gen. James Amos (shown here in 2011 in Afghanistan's Helmand province) — are weighing in on recent incidents involving misconduct by troops serving in Afghanistan.
Bay Ismoyo AFP/Getty Images

There's some soul-searching going on in the military these days.

The latest scandal to hit U.S. troops fighting in Afghanistan surfaced last week when The Los Angeles Times published photographs showing smiling American soldiers holding up body parts of a Taliban suicide bomber.

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta addressed the latest incident during a trip to Brussels.

"That behavior that was depicted in those photos absolutely violates both our regulations and, more importantly, our core values," he said last week after a NATO meeting.

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4:47pm

Wed April 18, 2012
NPR Story

Panetta Condemns Latest U.S. Troop Photo Scandal

Originally published on Wed April 18, 2012 5:54 pm

Newly-published photos show U.S. troops in Afghanistan posing with the dead bodies of insurgents. The incident, first reported by The Los Angeles Times, occurred in 2010. It's the latest setback for the military's counterinsurgency strategy, which depends on winning the hearts and minds of the Afghan people.

8:00am

Sat March 24, 2012
Afghanistan

Line Of Defense: Arguments In Afghan Attack Case

Originally published on Sat March 24, 2012 10:41 am

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News, I'm Scott Simon. Murder charges have been filed against the U.S. Army Sergeant accused of killing 17 Afghan men, women and children. Now, an investigative officer will decide whether there's enough evidence to go forward with a court martial. NPR's Pentagon correspondent, Tom Bowman, walks us through the legal challenges ahead for the defense and the prosecution.

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4:00am

Mon March 19, 2012
U.S.

Details Still Emerging In Afghanistan Shooting

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

We've spent much of the weekend trying to understand a nightmare moment of the U.S. presence in Afghanistan. An American soldier apparently walked off his post and killed 16 Afghan men, women and children. Staff Sergeant Robert Bales - we know his name now - is being held in solitary confinement in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. NPR Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman has been gathering details of the shooter's life, and he's on the line now. And, Tom, what have you learned?

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12:01am

Tue March 13, 2012
Afghanistan

Killings A Blow To U.S. Strategy In Afghanistan

Originally published on Tue March 13, 2012 8:25 am

A U.S. soldier, part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, stands outside a military base in Panjwai, Kandahar province, south of Kabul, on Sunday.
Allauddin Khan AP

The killings of some 16 civilians in Afghanistan on Sunday allegedly by a U.S. soldier are raising new questions about U.S. military strategy: whether the surge of American troops worked, and whether the U.S. troops have won over the Afghan people or alienated them.

The place where the killings happened was a "no-go zone" for American and even Afghan troops as recently as two years ago — it was Taliban country.

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4:49pm

Fri March 9, 2012
National Security

Experts: A Strike On Iran Poses Many Challenges

Originally published on Sun March 11, 2012 9:12 am

Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, addresses a meeting in Tehran on Thursday. Khamenei is a staunch defender of Iran's nuclear program.
AFP/Getty Images

The question hanging over Washington for months has been this: Will Israel strike the Iranian nuclear program?

The Obama administration seems to have bought some time this week after rounds of meetings and speeches with Israeli officials in Washington.

Still, the president assured Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the U.S. will do all in its power to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

So the military option is still on the table.

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12:01am

Thu March 1, 2012
National Security

In Mock Village, A New Afghan Mission Takes Shape

Originally published on Wed May 23, 2012 10:59 am

Lt. Col. Mark Schmitt, who will be among a group of U.S. military trainers heading to Afghanistan soon, calls out orders during a mock attack on the model Afghan village at the U.S. military base in Fort Polk, La.
David Gilkey NPR

At the Fort Polk military base in the pine forests of central Louisiana, the Army has created a miniature version of Afghanistan — with mock villages and American soldiers working alongside Afghan role-players.

This is the training ground for a new American approach in Afghanistan as the U.S. begins to look ahead to the goal of bringing home the U.S. forces by the end of 2014. The idea is that Afghan forces have to be good enough to defend their country against the Taliban, and to make that happen, the U.S. Army is creating small U.S. training teams at Fort Polk.

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5:14pm

Mon February 27, 2012
National Security

Afghan Violence Raises Questions About U.S. Strategy

Originally published on Mon February 27, 2012 8:27 pm

The latest violence in Afghan has raised doubts about the U.S. strategy. Here, Afghan demonstrators shout anti-U.S. slogans as they carry a wounded man during a protest in the Western city of Herat on Feb. 24.
Aref Karimi AFP/Getty Images

The violence against U.S. forces in Afghanistan has called into question the American exit strategy, which is set to play out steadily over the next three years.

It was only a few weeks ago that the second-ranking American military officer in Afghanistan laid out a new phase of that strategy. Small groups of U.S. advisers would team up with larger Afghan units to train them, said Lt. Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti.

The first of these U.S. assistance teams will head into Afghanistan this spring to train Afghan police and soldiers.

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3:35pm

Tue February 14, 2012
National Security

As China's Military Grows, U.S. Assesses Risks

At the White House on Tuesday, President Obama greeted China's Vice President Xi Jinping and called for cooperation between the two nations.

Later in the day, the Chinese vice president crossed the Potomac to visit the Pentagon, where the U-S military may hope for cooperation, but has to plan for possible confrontation.

The Pentagon's new budget request, unveiled Monday, signals a shift for the US military, with a greater focus on the Pacific.

China is building more ships and aircraft, and is now patrolling hundreds of miles out into the Pacific.

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2:19pm

Mon January 23, 2012
National Security

In Afghan War, U.S. Prepares To Redefine The Mission

Originally published on Tue January 24, 2012 8:03 am

The U.S. military wants Afghan troops to begin taking the lead role in combat operations. Here, Afghan cadets who are joining the army are shown at their graduation ceremony on Dec. 18 in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif.
Qais Usyan AFP/Getty Images

American commanders in Afghanistan are preparing for a major shift in their mission this year.

U.S. troops are expected to move away from their lead role in combat operations in most areas. Instead, they'll advise Afghan forces to take the lead in both operations and security duties throughout much of Afghanistan.

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10:57am

Thu January 19, 2012
Middle East

U.S. To Israel: Give Iranian Sanctions A Chance

Originally published on Sat January 21, 2012 10:22 am

The chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey (left), is in Israel to talk about the growing tension with Iran. Here, Dempsey speaks with Israel's top military officer, Lt. Gen. Benjamin Gantz, during a meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels on Wednesday.
Virginia Mayo AP

The nation's top military officer, Gen. Martin Dempsey, is in Israel where he's expected to send a clear message: Don't attack Iran, and let the tougher sanctions take hold.

Dempsey's trip to Israel was scheduled weeks ago, but it comes at a particularly sensitive time. Iran has threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz, the key route for oil shipments, and has stepped up its naval activities.

An Iranian nuclear scientist was recently killed by a drive-by assassin, and Iran is blaming Israel.

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5:44pm

Wed January 11, 2012
National Security

Can Iran Close The World's Most Important Oil Route?

Originally published on Wed January 11, 2012 10:24 pm

A member of Iran's navy participates in a drill on Dec. 28, 2011, in the Sea of Oman. Tehran is threatening to close the strategic Strait of Hormuz at the mouth of the Persian Gulf, in retaliation for new sanctions by the West.
Ali Mohammadi AP

As tensions rise between Iran and the West, Tehran has threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz, a transit route for one-fifth of the world's oil. Is it more than an empty threat?

"The simple answer is: Yes, they can block it," Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on CBS's Face the Nation on Jan. 8.

"They've invested in capabilities that for a short period of time block the Strait of Hormuz," he said.

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12:01am

Thu January 5, 2012
National Security

Critics Question Pentagon's New Strategy

For two decades, the Pentagon has maintained that it could fight two wars at the same time. But as the Obama administration releases its new military strategy Thursday, some question whether the Pentagon will abandon that long-held commitment.

An early draft of the Pentagon's new strategy, The New York Times reported, said the military would only be able to win one war and spoil an adversary's efforts in a second war.

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12:01am

Tue January 3, 2012
Iraq

Marine Sergeant On Trial For 2005 Deaths In Iraq

Marine Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich talks to the media with his attorney Neal Puckett (left) watching on after a 2010 pretrial hearing at Camp Pendleton in California. Wuterich is charged with voluntary manslaughter in the deaths of 24 Iraqi civilians in 2005.
Chris Carlson AP

One of the more controversial episodes of the Iraq war will be revisited in a military courtroom in California this week.

In November of 2005, a Marine squad killed 24 Iraqis, some of them women and children in the village of Haditha. Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich led the squad of Marines, and on Wednesday he'll face voluntary manslaughter charges at Camp Pendleton.

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12:01am

Tue December 27, 2011
Iraq

No U.S. Troops, But An Army Of Contractors In Iraq

As many as 5,000 private security contractors will be protecting U.S. diplomats in Iraq. The U.S. Embassy compound (above) and several consulates will have about 15,000 workers, making it the largest diplomatic operation abroad.
Lucas Jackson Reuters/Landov

The U.S. troops have left Iraq, and U.S. diplomats will now be the face of America in a country that remains extremely volatile.

The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, along with several consulates, will have some 15,000 workers, making it the largest U.S. diplomatic operation abroad. Those diplomats will be protected by a private army consisting of as many as 5,000 security contractors who will carry assault weapons and fly armed helicopters.

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10:14am

Fri December 16, 2011
Leaving Iraq

As The Iraq War Ends, Reassessing The U.S. Surge

Gen. David Petraeus (center, with no gun) walks with troops in 2007 in Baqouba, Iraq. The area had recently been seized back from al-Qaida control with help from U.S. forces who were part of the surge. The surge is widely credited with changing the course of the war; now, some experts are debating how much credit it deserves.
Chris Hondros Getty Images

Here's the conventional wisdom about the U.S. troop surge in Iraq: By 2006, Iraq was in chaos. Many Americans called for the U.S. to get out. Instead, President Bush sent in 30,000 additional troops. By the end of 2007, Iraq started to stabilize, and the move took on an almost mythic status.

In 2008, for example, Sen. Lindsey Graham spoke at the Republican National Convention about the U.S. presence in Iraq, saying that, "by every measure, the surge of troops into Iraq has worked."

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4:39pm

Tue December 13, 2011
Iraq

U.S. Troops (But Not Their TVs) Prepare To Leave Iraq

Originally published on Thu December 15, 2011 9:34 am

A day after leaving Iraq last week, U.S. Army soldiers from the 1st Cavalry Division lined up their armored vehicles near Kuwait City, Kuwait. Armored equipment will not stay behind after troops leave Iraq, but other property may.
Joe Raedle Getty Images

The final American troops are set to leave Iraq in a matter of days. Just a few thousand remain, and they will be heading south toward Kuwait — the starting point for a war that began nearly nine years ago.

The last American military unit out of Iraq will be part of the 1st Cavalry Division from Fort Hood, Texas. The division fought in some of the war's toughest battles and suffered nearly 300 killed.

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12:01am

Tue November 22, 2011
National Security

Does Supercommittee Failure Imperil Pentagon?

Originally published on Tue November 22, 2011 2:46 pm

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta testifies on Capitol Hill on Nov. 15. He said the proposed cuts to the Pentagon budget would lead to a hollow force.
Evan Vucci AP

The congressional supercommittee's failure to act is supposed to trigger hundreds of billions of dollars in spending cuts for the Pentagon starting in 2013. But even cuts that large don't come close to cutbacks in military spending in years past.

The Pentagon already plans to cut about $500 billion from its budget over 10 years. Now, it faces another $500 billion in cuts. For the military, that's the worst case: 10 years, $1 trillion in cuts.

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3:34pm

Fri November 4, 2011
'Darkhorse' Battalion And The Afghan War

For Wounded Marines, The Long, Hard Road Of Rehab

Originally published on Wed May 23, 2012 11:17 am

Lance Cpl. Jake Romo does physical therapy at the Naval Medical Center in San Diego, Calif. He lost both legs in an explosion in Sangin, Afghanistan, in February 2011, while serving with the 3/5 Marines.
David Gilkey NPR

A year ago, nearly 1,000 U.S. Marine officers and enlisted men of the 3rd Battalion, 5th Regiment deployed to restive Helmand province in southern Afghanistan. By the time their tour ended in April 2011, the Marines of the 3/5 — known as "Darkhorse" — suffered the highest casualty rate of any Marine unit during the past 10 years of war. This week, NPR tells the story of this unit's seven long months at war — both in Afghanistan and back home.

Sixth of seven parts

Jake Romo loved running.

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4:11pm

Tue November 1, 2011
'Darkhorse' Battalion And The Afghan War

As Casualties Mounted, So Did Marine Families' Fears

Amy Murray at home with her daughter Harper in Oceanside, Calif. Her husband, Capt. Patrick Murray, with the Darkhorse battalion, returned home from Afghanistan, in April 2011; 25 Marines from his unit did not.

David Gilkey NPR

A year ago, nearly 1,000 U.S. Marine officers and enlisted men of the 3rd Battalion, 5th Regiment deployed to restive Helmand province in southern Afghanistan. By the time their tour ended in April 2011, the Marines of the 3/5 — known as "Darkhorse" — suffered the highest casualty rate of any Marine unit during the past 10 years of war. This week, NPR tells the story of this unit's seven long months at war — both in Afghanistan and back home.

Third of seven parts

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3:40pm

Mon October 31, 2011
'Darkhorse' Battalion And The Afghan War

An Afghan Hell On Earth For 'Darkhorse' Marines

Originally published on Fri November 4, 2011 5:55 pm

U.S. Marines with 3rd Battalion, 5th Regiment and the Afghan National Army provide cover as they move out of a dangerous area after taking enemy sniper fire during a security patrol in Sangin, Afghanistan, in November 2010. During its seven-month deployment, the 3/5 sustained the highest casualty rate of any Marine unit during the Afghan war, losing 25 men.

Cpl. David R. Hernandez U.S. Marine Corps

A year ago, nearly 1,000 U.S. Marine officers and enlisted men of the 3rd Battalion, 5th Regiment deployed to restive Helmand province in southern Afghanistan. By the time their tour ended in April 2011, the Marines of the 3/5 — known as "Darkhorse" — suffered the highest casualty rate of any Marine unit during the past 10 years of war. This week, NPR tells the story of this unit's seven long months at war — both in Afghanistan and back home.

Second of seven parts

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