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.

World
2:04 pm
Tue September 16, 2014

Hagel, Dempsey Defend Obama's Strategy For Fighting ISIS

Originally published on Tue September 16, 2014 2:33 pm

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, defended the Obama administration's new strategy to fight the group called the Islamic State. The two officials were testifying before a Senate committee and were questioned on key aspects of the strategy, including whether a more U.S. troops might be needed on the ground in Iraq.

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Middle East
10:16 am
Tue July 29, 2014

For Two Years, He Smuggled Photos Of Torture Victims Out Of Syria

This is one of the some 55,000 images the former Syrian military police photographer known as Caesar smuggled out of the country between 2011 and 2013. The regime used numbers β€” written on white cards and sometimes directly on the skin β€” to identify the dead, which branch of the Syrian government had held them, and when they died.
Courtesy of Syrian Emergency Task Force

Originally published on Tue July 29, 2014 12:01 pm

Warning: This report contains descriptions and an image that could disturb some readers.

The savage and protracted conflict in Syria has left more than 170,000 dead. Now, there are allegations of torture and killing of political prisoners opposed to the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Those allegations appear to be supported by evidence: tens of thousands of photographs.

The man who says he took the pictures worked as a military police photographer for the Assad regime and defected last year.

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National Security
2:31 pm
Fri June 20, 2014

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

Originally published on Fri June 20, 2014 4:08 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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National Security
1:59 pm
Wed June 4, 2014

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

Originally published on Wed June 4, 2014 4:18 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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National Security
10:02 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 β€” 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 10:14 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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National Security
2:07 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 3:26 pm

The year is 1984: A Soviet defector dashes across the Korean border β€” 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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The Two-Way
3:14 pm
Fri January 17, 2014

Gen. Dempsey: Better To Get Others To Solve Their Own Problems

Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, talking to U.S. military personnel in Tokyo last April.
Kyodo/Landov

Originally published on Fri January 17, 2014 11:26 am

On Morning Edition, NPR's Tom Bowman profiled Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Dempsey, as Tom reported, says the U.S. public, and even its leaders, know little about how military power can be used. The disconnect is most glaring when comes to this: What can the U.S. military achieve in places like Iraq, Afghanistan or Syria?

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National Security
8:21 am
Fri December 27, 2013

Marines: Most Female Recruits Don't Meet New Pullup Standard

Female Marine recruits train on the rifle range during boot camp at Parris Island, S.C., on Feb. 25. The Marine Corps said it has postponed new physical standards that would require women to do three pullups, noting that many female recruits were not yet able to do so.
Scott Olson Getty Images

Originally published on Fri December 27, 2013 5:06 am

Starting Jan. 1, every woman in the Marines Corps was supposed to meet a new physical standard by performing three pullups. But that has been put off.

The Marine Corps announced it quietly. There was no news conference β€” just a notice on its social media sites and an item on its own TV show, The Corps Report.

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National Security
12:58 pm
Thu November 21, 2013

Women Pass Marine Training, Clear First Hurdle To Combat Role

Pfc. Katie Gorz (center) served as a squad leader during the training at Camp Geiger, N.C.
Tom Bowman NPR

Originally published on Thu November 21, 2013 3:54 pm

More than 200 Marines have been training since late September in the pine forests of North Carolina. They've been hiking for miles carrying 87-pound packs and assault rifles, sleeping in the field, attacking mock enemy positions.

And for the first time, women took part in the training. Three of them made it to the end and graduated Thursday morning.

They were there at Camp Geiger to answer the question of whether women have what it takes to become combat infantry Marines.

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National Security
12:26 pm
Mon March 25, 2013

As Qualified Men Dwindle, Military Looks For A Few Good Women

Army recruits perform exercises as part of a demonstration for tourists in front of the military-recruiting station in New York's Times Square.
Mark Lennihan AP

Originally published on Wed March 27, 2013 2:59 pm

When the Pentagon said earlier this year that it would open ground combat jobs to women, it was cast in terms of giving women equal opportunities in the workplace β€” the military workplace.

But the move has practical considerations, too. The military needs qualified people to fill its ranks, and it's increasingly harder to find them among men.

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