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., 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 has 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. In 2010, Bowman 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
2:19 pm
Mon January 23, 2012

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

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

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

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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Middle East
10:57 am
Thu January 19, 2012

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

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

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

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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National Security
5:44 pm
Wed January 11, 2012

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

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

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

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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National Security
12:01 am
Thu January 5, 2012

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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Iraq
12:01 am
Tue January 3, 2012

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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Iraq
12:01 am
Tue December 27, 2011

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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Leaving Iraq
10:14 am
Fri December 16, 2011

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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Iraq
4:39 pm
Tue December 13, 2011

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

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

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

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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National Security
12:01 am
Tue November 22, 2011

Does Supercommittee Failure Imperil Pentagon?

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

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

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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'Darkhorse' Battalion And The Afghan War
3:34 pm
Fri November 4, 2011

For Wounded Marines, The Long, Hard Road Of Rehab

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

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

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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'Darkhorse' Battalion And The Afghan War
4:11 pm
Tue November 1, 2011

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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'Darkhorse' Battalion And The Afghan War
3:40 pm
Mon October 31, 2011

An Afghan Hell On Earth For 'Darkhorse' Marines

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

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

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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Afghanistan
2:54 pm
Sun October 30, 2011

Afghan Success Comes At High Price For Commander

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

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

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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National Security
12:00 am
Sat October 8, 2011

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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National Security
4:09 pm
Wed October 5, 2011

Gap Grows Between Military, Civilians On War

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

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

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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