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.



Tue July 5, 2011

Marine: 'We're Starting To Fall To The Wayside'

A Marine walks along a mud wall while conducting a search and clearing operation in Afghanistan's Helmand province, as the dust from a wheat thrashing machine falls like snow.
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 the troops who have made a decision few others have — to fight in America's wars.

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Mon July 4, 2011

For Some, The Decision To Enlist Offers Direction

Marine Lance CPL. Andrew Zemore, 23, from Fredericksburg, Va., is a self-described troublemaker who liked to party too much. Zemore said he fell into the Marine Corps and now is on a Explosives Ordinance Disposal (EOD) team where he searches out bombs with a hand-held metal detector.
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 the soldiers that made a decision few others today have — to fight in America's wars.

Private First Class Dave Kroha from Cromwell, Conn. is a lanky 23-year-old stuffed into the back of an armored vehicle that rumbles along a dusty road in Afghanistan. His wire-rimmed glasses are held together by tape.

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Thu June 30, 2011

Fighting Shifts To Afghanistan's Mountainous East

Originally published on Wed May 23, 2012 11:42 am

Afghan National Army troops take a break while on a joint patrol and clearing operation with Butcher Troop, part of the U.S. Army's 1st Infantry Division, in eastern Afghanistan.
David Gilkey NPR/Redux

The American-led fight in Afghanistan is changing. The toughest fighting is shifting from the south — Helmand and Kandahar provinces — to the east. There, high, craggy mountains offer shelter to Taliban fighters.

And it's one group of fighters in particular that American and Afghan forces are battling: a branch of the Taliban known as the Haqqani network.

A 'Cavalry Fight' In Hostile Country

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Fri June 17, 2011

Marines Team Up With Afghan 'Neighborhood Watch'

Originally published on Wed May 23, 2012 11:44 am

Isutalah of the Interim Security for Critical Infrastructure force on foot patrol in northern Marjah with Marines of Golf Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Regiment.
David Gilkey NPR

Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, is in Washington this week. He's already met with President Obama, and the White House is debating how many troops to withdraw from Afghanistan.

One factor in that decision: whether Afghans can take over the fight.

An area of Afghanistan that was the scene of major combat a year ago is now a test case for whether peace can hold in the country. North of the district of Marjah, in Helmand province, Marines are working with locals who know the area and know the enemy.

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Tue June 14, 2011

'Hell Of A Leader': Marines Remember Sgt. Garrison

Sgt. Joseph Garrison with Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, runs through the desert near Camp Leatherneck during a drill in June 2009. Garrison was killed while on his fourth combat deployment to Afghanistan in June 2011, when he was struck by a homemade bomb in Marja.
David Gilkey NPR

On Friday, Marines will gather to remember Sgt. Joseph Garrison at a small combat outpost in Afghanistan's Helmand province.

Garrison, 27, was killed earlier this month by a roadside bomb.

NPR talked with Garrison on an earlier deployment, when he was busy training Marines for an operation against Taliban forces in the Helmand River valley.

"We're brothers. We eat together, train together, sleep together," Garrison said two years ago. "And we'll die for each other."

'Hell Of A Leader'

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Tue May 17, 2011
The Two-Way

The Name Game: Who Will Be The Next Chairman Of The Joint Chiefs Of Staff?

The name game continues around Washington about who will be the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff when Adm. Mike Mullen steps down at the end of September.

Marine Gen. James Cartwright, the vice chairman, has long been seen as the front runner. But now a new name, according to Pentagon and defense sources, is picking up steam: Gen. Martin Dempsey, who was installed as Army chief of staff just over a month ago.

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Tue May 17, 2011

As U.S. Military Exits Iraq, Contractors To Enter

A U.S. Army helicopter brigade is set to pull out of Baghdad in December, as part of an agreement with the Iraqi government to remove U.S. forces. So the armed helicopters flying over the Iraqi capital next year will have pilots and machine gunners from DynCorp International, a company based in Virginia.

On the ground, it's the same story. American soldiers and Marines will leave. Those replacing them, right down to carrying assault weapons, will come from places with names like Aegis Defence Services and Global Strategies Group — eight companies in all.

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Wed May 4, 2011
National Security

Bin Laden Mission Called For SEAL Team Six

More than two dozen U.S. commandos carried out the raid on Osama bin Laden's compound in Pakistan.

The identities of the men who were apart of it may never be known.

They were members of SEAL Team Six.

To clarify, there's a unit called Navy SEALS, and then there is SEAL Team Six. They are not the same.

Eric Greitens is a Navy SEAL. He made it through a grueling six-month course in California, where some two-thirds of candidates fail.

Then he was sent to Afghanistan as a member of that elite unit, hunting down al-Qaida fighters.

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Thu April 28, 2011
National Security

Obama To Announce New National Security Team

The White House has been planning to reshuffle its national security line up for months, and it is expected to announce the new team Thursday. The changes have been driven by the planned retirement of Defense Secretary Robert Gates.