Tom Bowman

Tom Bowman is a NPR National Desk reporter covering the Pentagon.

In his current role, Bowman has traveled to Iraq and Afghanistan often for month-long visits and embedded with U.S. Marines and soldiers.

Before coming to NPR in April 2006, Bowman spent nine years as a Pentagon reporter at The Baltimore Sun. Altogether he was at The Sun for nearly two decades, covering the Maryland Statehouse, the U.S. 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.

Initially Bowman imagined his career path would take him into academia as a history, government, or journalism professor. During college Bowman worked as a stringer at The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, Mass. He 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.

Bowman is a co-winner of a 2006 National Headliners' Award for stories on the lack of advanced tourniquets for U.S. troops in Iraq. In 2010, he received an Edward R. Murrow Award for his coverage of a Taliban roadside bomb attack on an Army unit.

Bowman earned a Bachelor of Arts in history from St. Michael's College in Winooski, Vermont, and a master's degree in American Studies from Boston College.

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National Security
1:16 am
Mon July 7, 2014

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

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

Originally published on Tue July 8, 2014 7:51 am

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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Iraq
2:15 pm
Tue June 24, 2014

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

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

Originally published on Tue June 24, 2014 6:19 pm

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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The Two-Way
1:44 pm
Mon June 23, 2014

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

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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National Security
2:20 pm
Fri June 20, 2014

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

Originally published on Fri June 20, 2014 5:08 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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Iraq
2:11 pm
Fri June 13, 2014

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

Originally published on Fri June 13, 2014 4:23 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.

News
2:13 pm
Tue June 10, 2014

Green Berets Are Killed In A Possible Case Of Friendly Fire

Originally published on Tue June 10, 2014 6:31 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/.

Transcript

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News
2:06 pm
Mon June 9, 2014

Despite Details Of Bergdahl's Captivity, Answers Stay Scattered

Originally published on Mon June 9, 2014 4:42 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

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

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

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National Security
3:00 pm
Wed June 4, 2014

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

Originally published on Wed June 4, 2014 5:18 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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Politics
2:08 pm
Wed June 4, 2014

Prisoner Swap Ignites Political Firestorm On The Hill

Originally published on Wed June 4, 2014 5:18 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.

National Security
2:22 pm
Mon June 2, 2014

As Bergdahl Returns Home, Accusations Of Desertion Surface

Originally published on Tue June 3, 2014 7:26 am

A member of Bowe Bergdahl's squad tells of a soldier who soured to the Afghan mission and deserted. If true, the Army would have to consider the circumstances and whether charges are warranted.

Afghanistan
2:17 pm
Tue May 27, 2014

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

Originally published on Tue May 27, 2014 5:58 pm

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/.

Transcript

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National Security
2:04 am
Mon May 26, 2014

One Of Many: Remembering A Fallen Son On Memorial Day

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

Originally published on Mon May 26, 2014 5:20 pm

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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Africa
2:05 pm
Thu May 15, 2014

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

Originally published on Thu May 15, 2014 6:18 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.

Around the Nation
2:35 pm
Tue May 13, 2014

Medal Of Honor Recipient Dodged Bullets To Help Wounded Soldiers

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

Originally published on Tue May 13, 2014 5:26 pm

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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Middle East
3:20 am
Tue May 13, 2014

Syrian Opposition Leader To Meet With White House Official

Originally published on Tue May 13, 2014 7:58 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.

Middle East
2:11 pm
Fri May 9, 2014

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

Originally published on Fri May 9, 2014 6:45 pm

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

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The Two-Way
4:05 pm
Wed April 30, 2014

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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Middle East
2:31 pm
Thu April 24, 2014

CIA Acts In Syria, Slipping Weapons To Rebels In Secret

Originally published on Thu April 24, 2014 5:17 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

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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Parallels
3:08 pm
Wed April 23, 2014

CIA Is Quietly Ramping Up Aid To Syrian Rebels, Sources Say

Syrian President Bashar Assad (right) visits the Christian village of Maaloula, near Damascus on Sunday. Assad's forces have been gaining the upper hand in the fighting, and the CIA is now increasing training and aid to Syrian rebels.
AP

Originally published on Wed April 23, 2014 5:13 pm

The U.S. is providing more arms and training to the moderate rebels in Syria, under a growing secret program run by the CIA in Jordan. Sources tell NPR that secret program could be supplemented by a more public effort in the coming months involving American military trainers.

The change in strategy comes as the White House sees Syrian leader Bashar Assad growing in strength, and continuing to strike rebel strongholds.

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National Security
1:30 pm
Tue April 22, 2014

Army Vs. National Guard: Who Gets Those Apache Helicopters?

An airborne Apache attack helicopter takes off above a Black Hawk helicopter from the South Carolina Army National Guard base in Eastover, S.C., in 2007. The Army is planning to move all the National Guard's Apache helicopters to the regular Army, a move opposed by many in the Guard.
Mary Ann Chastain AP

Originally published on Tue April 22, 2014 4:38 pm

For decades the National Guard has fought hard against the stereotype that it was the place to avoid the draft during the Vietnam War, or that it's a place to get college money rather than combat duty.

Guard leaders thought that after more than a decade of war in Afghanistan and Iraq they had finally earned some respect. So it was a body blow when the Army's top officer, Gen. Ray Odierno, unveiled his plan on Capitol Hill to take all of the National Guard's Apache helicopters and move them to the regular Army.

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National Security
1:52 am
Fri April 11, 2014

What's The Right Size For The U.S. Army?

As the U.S. winds down the Afghan war, the government is eyeing a much reduced military force — to its lowest level since World War II. Here, soldiers from the U.S. Army's 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, salute during the playing of "The Star-Spangled Banner" during a homecoming ceremony Feb. 27 in Fort Knox, Ky.
Luke Sharrett Getty Images

Originally published on Wed April 30, 2014 11:14 am

With the U.S. military out of Iraq and winding down in Afghanistan, the U.S. Army, which peaked with a force of around 570,000 a few years ago, was supposed to drop to around 490,000 troops.

But U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said that's still too big.

"An Army of this size is larger than required to meet the demands of our defense strategy," Hagel told a news conference in February.

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News
2:05 pm
Thu March 27, 2014

Air Force Roots Out Cheaters In Ranks — As Well As Why They Did It

Originally published on Thu March 27, 2014 5:03 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel.

The Air Force has fired nine officers in connection with a cheating scandal at one nuclear missile base. An investigation found there was widespread cheating on proficiency tests at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana. The case involves a total of 79 officers.

Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James called it a problem of leadership culture.

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Around the Nation
3:05 am
Thu March 27, 2014

Air Force To Release Results Of Cheating Probe

Originally published on Mon March 31, 2014 10:18 am

Transcript

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

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News
2:28 pm
Thu March 20, 2014

Following Plea Deal, General's Misconduct Gets Fine And Reprimand

Originally published on Fri March 21, 2014 4:20 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

A U.S. Army general accused of sexual assault will not face jail time. Brigadier General Jeffrey Sinclair was sentenced today at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. Sinclair could have faced a prison term of up to 18 months as part of a plea deal. Instead, he'll receive a letter of reprimand and a $20,000 fine. Some members of Congress and victims' advocates are outraged at what they see as a leniency of the sentence. NPR's Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman joins me now to talk about what happened.

So, Tom, was this sentence a surprise?

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News
2:09 pm
Mon March 17, 2014

General Takes Plea Deal In Sexual Assault Case

Originally published on Mon March 17, 2014 4:33 pm

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Today, a plea deal in the most closely watched sexual assault case in the military. An Army general admitted to charges of mistreating a subordinate and adultery. But Brigadier General Jeffrey Sinclair will not face more serious charges. That's because the Army's case against him fell apart. We're going to hear more about what happened now from NPR Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman. Hi, Tom.

TOM BOWMAN, BYLINE: Hello, Robert.

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National Security
2:20 pm
Mon February 24, 2014

Hagel Proposes Cuts To Size And Spending of Armed Forces

Originally published on Mon February 24, 2014 6:02 pm

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

And we begin this hour with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel's plan to cut the military. At the Pentagon today, he called for a smaller Army and Marine Corps. He also suggested grounding a vintage Cold War plane and asked troops to pay more for health care and other benefits. Hagel said his budget plan offers a new post-war vision for the Pentagon. But as NPR's Tom Bowman reports, it's a vision that veterans groups and many in Congress don't share.

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National Security
2:05 pm
Fri February 21, 2014

New Military Ethics Chief Will Face A Full Plate

Originally published on Fri February 21, 2014 5:53 pm

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is expected to appoint a senior officer to oversee military ethics, in response to recent high-profile ethics problems. Whoever takes the job will face a stiff challenge.

National Security
3:16 am
Thu February 6, 2014

Hagel Concerned By Ethical Lapses In Armed Forces

Originally published on Thu February 6, 2014 5:59 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

The American military is trying to get to the bottom of a series of scandals. Air Force nuclear missile officers cheated on tests, Navy sailors are accused of the same, and more - enough that Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel is concerned that there's a pattern here, a problem with ethical lapses across the armed services. NPR Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman joins us now to talk about this. Good morning.

TOM BOWMAN, BYLINE: Good morning, Renee.

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National Security
3:30 pm
Wed January 29, 2014

A Medal Of Valor, 30 Years In Coming

In 1984, an American Army unit engaged in this firefight as it shielded a Soviet defector who made a break across the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea. Thirty years after the battle, American soldier Mark Deville has finally received a Silver Star for bravery.
Courtesy of Mark Deville

Originally published on Wed January 29, 2014 4:26 pm

The year is 1984: A Soviet defector dashes across the Korean border — chased by North Korean troops. American troops shield him and open fire on the North Koreans. There are dead and wounded on both sides.

Now, 30 years later, one of those Americans is finally receiving his medal for bravery.

Mark Deville was just 19 on that November day in 1984, part of an American Army unit patrolling the tense border between North and South Korea.

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Afghanistan
2:47 pm
Wed January 22, 2014

Pentagon, White House Are At Odds Over Afghanistan

Originally published on Wed January 22, 2014 6:01 pm

The Pentagon is saying that it needs to keep 10,000 troops in Afghanistan after 2014 to train Afghans and maintain a counterterror mission. But military officials are once again running into interference from Vice President Joe Biden. That's nothing new: Biden in particular has for years pushed for a counterterror option of only several thousand troops, though the military says that number is far too small. The Pentagon argues that Biden's proposal would mean the U.S. forces would be largely consigned to their bases.

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