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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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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2:54pm

Sun October 30, 2011
Afghanistan

Afghan Success Comes At High Price For Commander

Originally published on Fri November 4, 2011 5:57 pm

Lt. Col. Jason Morris pays his respects at a memorial service in Sangin, Afghanistan, on Nov. 26, 2010, for three Marines who were killed: Lance Cpl. Brandon Pearson, Lance Cpl. Matthew Broehm and 1st Lt. Robert Kelly. Morris commanded a battalion in volatile Helmand province that suffered the highest casualty rate of any Marine unit in the Afghanistan War.

Lance Cpl. Joseph M. Peterson 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.

First of seven parts

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12:00am

Sat October 8, 2011
National Security

Veterans, Civilians Don't See Eye To Eye On War

Saturday begins the 11th year in the war in Afghanistan, and a new poll shows that veterans and the general public have different views on war, the value of military service — and even patriotism.

David Gilkey NPR

Veterans and the general public have different views on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the value of military service, and even the subject of patriotism, according to a new survey by the Pew Research Center.

The United States has never seen a moment like this one, the Pew Center says. Sustained combat for a decade, and a small fraction of American men and women in uniform.

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4:09pm

Wed October 5, 2011
National Security

Gap Grows Between Military, Civilians On War

Originally published on Fri October 7, 2011 4:42 pm

A new poll by the Pew Research Center shows a significant divergence on attitudes toward war and military service between members of the military and civilians.

David Gilkey NPR

As the U.S. marks the 10th anniversary of its involvement in the Afghan war this week, a Pew Research Center report shows some wide differences between the way military members and the general public view the fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Pew researchers talked to nearly 4,000 people, split almost evenly between military veterans and civilians. Paul Taylor, the editor of the study, said he wanted to explore this unique moment in American history.

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12:01am

Thu September 15, 2011
National Security

For A Marine Hero, A Medal Of Honor

Marine Dakota Meyer poses during his deployment in Kunar province, Afghanistan. President Obama is awarding him the Medal of Honor on Thursday, making him the first living Marine to receive the honor since the Vietnam War.
Anonymous AP

Shortly after dawn on a September morning in 2009, American and Afghan troops set out on patrol along a rocky mile-long stretch in eastern Afghanistan. They were heading to a small village for a routine meeting with tribal elders.

Suddenly, everything went wrong.

Cpl. Dakota Meyer and Staff Sgt. Juan Rodriguez-Chavez, who had stayed behind with the vehicles, heard small arms fire in the distance and knew instantly it was an ambush. Rodriguez-Chavez then heard an officer yelling for help on the radio.

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4:00am

Thu September 1, 2011
Governing

Panel Finds Widespread Waste By Wartime Contractors

A report by a congressional commission says the U.S. has lost tens of billions of dollars during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan because of waste and fraud in government contracts. The panel offered 15 recommendations to tackle the contracting mess. But one suggested fix — hire more government workers — might not be too popular right now.

12:01am

Wed August 31, 2011
Closing Walter Reed

In 2007, Walter Reed Was The Army's Wakeup Call

At Walter Reed, Oscar Olguin and his family were visited by President Bush and first lady Laura Bush. But Olguin says that when he left the hospital, he had to fend for himself.
Courtesy of Oscar Olguin

For more than a century, the Walter Reed Army Medical Center was known as the hospital that catered to presidents and generals. Eisenhower was treated and died there. So too did Generals "Black Jack" Pershing, Douglas MacArthur and George Marshall.

But in recent years, Walter Reed was shorthand for scandal.

A 2007 series that dominated the front page of The Washington Post told of decrepit housing and wounded soldiers left to fend for themselves.

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11:09am

Mon August 15, 2011
Closing Walter Reed

When Will Closing Walter Reed Pay Off? Maybe 2018

Originally published on Wed August 31, 2011 6:08 pm

BRAC Commission Chairman Anthony J. Principi, and other member of the commission raise their hands in favor of closing Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington during a base closing hearing Aug. 25, 2005 in Arlington, Va.
Mark Wilson Getty Images

When the Walter Reed Army Medical Center was slated for closure back in 1995, the goals were to improve care for wounded soldiers, and to save money. The final patients left this past week.

But with closing Walter Reed now estimated to cost more than $1 billion more than originally predicted, it could take many years before the military will realize any savings.

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8:00am

Sat August 13, 2011
National Security

What Crashed Our Hypersonic Drone?

Pentagon officials are investigating what happened to its Falcon Hypersonic aircraft that crashed into the Pacific Ocean last week. The Falcon is the fastest aircraft ever built and can fly 13,000 miles per hour. It's designed to carry a conventional warhead against any target within an hour. NPR Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman reports.

12:01am

Tue August 9, 2011
Afghanistan

Military Faces Challenge In Rebuilding SEAL Team 6

The Taliban attack that claimed the lives of nearly two dozen members of the elite and secretive unit called SEAL Team 6 places a huge burden on the Special Forces community.

Officials say with a roughly 10 percent loss, they may have to rotate SEALs in before their downtime is complete, or pull SEALs from staff and training positions. Longer term, it will mean juggling the new SEAL Team 6 members with veterans.

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8:00am

Sun August 7, 2011
Afghanistan

Navy SEALs Mourn Heavy Loss In Afghanistan

The Navy SEAL community is mourning the loss of more than two dozen members. They were among 30 Americans killed Saturday when their helicopter came under fire during an operation in eastern Afghanistan. NPR Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman reports.

12:01am

Wed July 6, 2011
Who Serves

A Teacher Leaves The Classroom For Afghanistan

Darryl St. George, a Navy corpsman with Weapons Company of the 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines out of Camp Lejeune, N.C., reads a book as the sun rises over a temporary base nicknamed "Patrol Base Suc" in Helmand province, southern Afghanistan.
David Gilkey NPR

A very small number of Americans are now serving in the military — less 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. In the series Who Serves, NPR looks at those who have made a decision few others today have — to fight in America's wars.

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