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.

The Afghan army commander said the treacherous road to Marjah, in Afghanistan's southern province of Helmand, was now safe. His forces had driven out the Taliban a few days earlier, he added.

"The road is open, so no problem," said Lt. Gen. Moeen Faqir. "Of course I hope you go there and find the reality and reflect it."

The American Green Berets were seated around a long, plywood table at their base when they spotted the Taliban counterattack on their screens.

The burly Americans were working on computers, drinking coffee and munching on chips and peanut butter cookies. Their team leader answered an ever-ringing phone, giving his superiors updates on an Afghan commando mission in the mountains just north of Afghanistan's Kandahar Airfield.

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With American troops mostly focused on training Afghan soldiers, the hospital on the sprawling Bagram Airfield doesn't have many combat trauma cases anymore. In fact, it just has one.

A 6-year-old girl, caught in a firefight between American and Afghan soldiers and Taliban insurgents, has been in intensive care since she was shot earlier this year. The gun battle killed her father, a Taliban fighter, along with her mother and some siblings. It's not clear who fired the bullet that struck her.

The Marines will begin training the first women for ground combat jobs in June. But it could be a challenge because so far no women recruits have signed up for armor, artillery or infantry positions.

In addition, some 200 women Marines already completed ground combat training last year as part of an experiment. But so far they have chosen to stay in their current jobs, ranging from truck drivers to comptrollers to helicopter refuelers, and have not opted to switch to combat jobs.

The Pentagon hopes an ISIS chemical weapons engineer captured in Iraq last month will lead U.S. troops to possible weapons sites and help prevent chemical attacks by the Islamic State.

Defense officials hope that Sleiman Daoud al-Afari will help them find storage sites for chemical munitions including mustard agent, which can blister the skin and lungs and lead to death in high concentrations. Iraqi officials told the Associated Press that al-Afari worked for Saddam Hussein's military and has long been a member of ISIS, which seized portions of Iraq last summer.

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President Obama says this week will be a test for the new international agreement on Syria.

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Some 700 American troops on a long-running deployment could be in danger of an attack by extremists affiliated with the Islamic State, the Pentagon worries, but it may not be able to get them out anytime soon.

U.S. military commanders fear the soldiers deployed in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, and charged with keeping the peace between Egypt and Israel, are becoming an irresistible target for Islamist fighters concentrating nearby.

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Staff Sgt. Matthew McClintock died in Afghanistan this week. He was 30 and leaves a wife and infant son. McClintock was part of a training and advising mission. But he died fighting the Taliban along with Afghan troops.

American forces are increasingly being drawn back into the fight, even though President Obama declared an end to the combat mission last fall. Last year, 22 American military personnel were killed in Afghanistan, half of the deaths classified as "hostile."

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A Russian warplane shot down over the Turkish border on Tuesday crashed in an area of Syria that advocates want to protect with a no-fly zone, or even a "safe zone" — fenced off from attacks by the Syrian regime or extremist groups like the Islamic State.

President Barack Obama could be close to nominating the first-ever woman to become the head of a military combatant command, Pentagon sources tell NPR.

The U.S. military divides the world into areas of responsibility run by four-star generals and admirals, but none has ever been female. Obama wants to change that before the end of his term, Pentagon sources say, by naming a woman to take command of U.S. Northern Command. The current commander of NorthCom is also the commander of the well-known North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD.

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In September, the U.S. Marine Corps released a four-page summary of a yearlong study that found that all-male units were faster, more lethal and able to evacuate casualties in less time than mixed-gender units. The study, which can be viewed in full below, was bashed by critics for being biased.

NPR was able to independently obtain the full 978-page Marine Corps study. Several key findings are below.

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