Tom Bowman

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

In his current role, Bowman has traveled to Syria as well as 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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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.

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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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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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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.

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.

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.

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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At the White House on Tuesday, President Obama will award the Medal of Honor to two-dozen soldiers whose service ranged from World War II to the Vietnam War. These soldiers are being commemorated after congress mandated a review to make sure that no one was overlooked because of prejudice.

One of them is Santiago Erevia, who risked his life on a May afternoon in 1969, charging toward bunkers held by the North Vietnamese.

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The year was 1984: A Soviet defector dashed across the Korean border — chased by North Korean troops. American troops shielded him and opened fire on the North Koreans. There were 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 Korea and South Korea.

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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?

The nation's top military officer, Gen. Martin Dempsey, is disputing former Defense Secretary Robert Gates' contention that President Obama is suspicious of senior military leaders.

In an interview with NPR on Tuesday, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff says he's never picked up on those feelings from the White House.

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates says he didn't want to wait until Obama's term was up before releasing his memoir because the issues were too urgent.
Brendan Smialowski

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 — just a notice on its social media sites and an item on its own TV show, The Corps Report.

China has been building up its military strength for some time now, and pushing ever farther from its coastline and into international waters. The real concern now is for miscalculation — particularly with Japan — that ends up in gunfire.

Just six months ago, the Pentagon released its annual report on China's military. Its defense budget was growing. The country was building more stealthy aircraft and submarines. It even bought an aircraft carrier from the Ukraine.

Pentagon official David Helvey highlighted particular areas of concern.

Should the Afghan government sign a security agreement, the U.S. plans to keep between 6,000 and 9,000 American troops in Afghanistan even after the U.S. and NATO's combat mission officially ends late in 2014.

Beginning in 2015, the remaining troops would train Afghan soldiers and mount operations against any remnants of al-Qaida.

But they wouldn't be the only ones who stay behind: U.S. troops would almost certainly be outnumbered by civilian contractors.

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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What do the following words have in common?

SHARKFINN
KEYSTONE
DISHFIRE
TWISTEDPATH

The answer? They're all NSA code words.

Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor, leaked thousands of documents about some of the most secretive programs run by the U.S. government. So secret, they're all given classified names.

You may have heard of PRISM, the name of the secret NSA program that vacuums up Internet communications. Turns out just about everything else at the world's biggest spy agency has its own code word.

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