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 city of Raqqa was the de facto capital of the Islamic State. ISIS fighters were defeated there back in October, and they scattered in all directions. But they left behind a deadly legacy - thousands upon thousands of explosive booby traps.

Now U.S. and Syrian trainers are teaching young men how to dismantle those bombs, at a village on the outskirts of the city.

The Kurdish soldiers stand watch at this rustic outpost, nothing more than sand bags and hardened earth, like some sort of prehistoric fortress. Some of the fighters carry AK-47s, others hold machine guns. And all are looking to the south and the front line with ISIS in northeast Syria.

It's a vast open plain.

Gen. Hassan commands these troops. He's a short, squat man with salt-and-pepper hair, and he points out in the distance where the enemy is located, just a couple of mud huts on the horizon.

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Looking back a half-century, to when they were young officers, their memories of the Battle of Hue are still fresh.

"What I saw was probably the most intense ground fighting on a sustained basis over several days of any other period during the war," says Howard Prince, an Army captain who worked with South Vietnamese forces.

"We were under fire, under heavy fire," says Jim Coolican, a Marine captain.

Mike Downs, another Marine captain, recalls, "We didn't know where the enemy was, in which direction even."

The Pentagon unveiled its National Defense Strategy, a document that focuses on the "eroding" U.S. military advantage with regard to Russia and China, and will likely influence future spending on weapons systems and other military hardware.

"The department needs to focus on Russia and China," said Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy and Force Development Elbridge Colby, during a question and answer session with reporters at the Pentagon. "The erosion of our military advantage is the problem."

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The Army is training thousands more soldiers in tunnel warfare, part of an effort to be ready to offer President Trump military options for North Korea, U.S. officials tell NPR.

North Korea is honeycombed with thousands of tunnels and bunkers, some of them discovered leading across the border and close to the South Korean capital, Seoul. Others in North Korea are hundreds of feet deep and could be used to hide troops and artillery, as well as chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.

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The Army's Green Berets have gained a reputation over the decades for their toughness and fighting skills. They served with local forces in Vietnam, and in recent years, they've deployed repeatedly to Iraq and Afghanistan. The list of their deployments continues to grow: Niger. Somalia. Yemen. Syria. Philippines.

Now a fight appears to be growing inside the Green Beret community.

The new troops of the Afghan 215th Corps are assembled on a wide plaza at midday at their base, called Camp Shorabak.

Passing in review is their new commander, Maj. Gen. Wali Mohammad Ahmadzai. He proved himself fighting the Taliban in northeast Afghanistan. Now he's in charge of Helmand — the deadliest province in a troubled country.

Gen. John W. "Mick" Nicholson settles into his wood-paneled office inside the American-led military headquarters in Kabul. It's lined with plaques, pictures and ceremonial swords.

He has spent more time in Afghanistan, in various jobs, than any other senior American officer — a total of 5 1/2 years. The commander of NATO's Resolute Support mission and U.S. forces in Afghanistan since March 2016, Nicholson is a genial West Point graduate with salt-and-pepper hair — and a renewed confidence.

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President Trump awarded the Medal of Honor to an Army medic on Monday afternoon at the White House, nearly 50 years after his heroic actions during the Vietnam War.

Over three days of bravery, Jim McCloughan ran toward enemy fire numerous times to save his fellow soldiers, even though he was wounded himself.

At the ceremony, the president called McCloughan a "hero" and "a veteran who went above and beyond the call of duty."

"He would not flinch in the face of sure death and definite danger," Trump said.

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Today - this afternoon at the White House, President Trump awards the Medal of Honor to United States Army medic, who is receiving the honor almost 50 years after his actions during the Vietnam War.

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A debate has broken out at the Pentagon and in Congress over a proposal to dismantle an 8-year-old program that gives fast-track citizenship to immigrant soldiers who were recruited because they have critical skills in languages and medicine.

More than 4,000 immigrant soldiers recruited through the program — mostly from China and South Korea — are serving in uniform, including on overseas tours. Another 4,000 recruits have enlisted and are awaiting training.

When President Donald Trump selected retired Marine Gen. James Mattis for defense secretary, it was a rare choice. No recently retired general had been selected for the top Pentagon job since George Marshall, some 66 years earlier.

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U.S. Marine artillerymen are now in place on Syrian soil, north of the last stronghold of the Islamic State. A force of local Kurdish and Arab fighters is moving south, continuing to isolate the city of Raqqa.

They're in the opening stages of a major military operation that officials say could last into the fall.

What comes next is expected to have huge implications not only for the fate of ISIS but also for the relationship between Turkey and Russia, as well as the geographic outlines of the future Syrian state.

It will be very complicated.

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A new year and a new president could mean a new phase in the war against the Islamic State. Donald Trump promised to defeat that group many times throughout his campaign. Here's what he said back in September.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

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Donald Trump announced his choice to be defense secretary.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DONALD TRUMP: We are going to appoint Mad Dog Mattis...

(CHEERING)

TRUMP: ...As our secretary of defense.

Michael Flynn, Donald Trump's planned choice for National Security Adviser, is perhaps best known to the American public for his fiery speech at the Republican National Convention in the summer, when he spoke to chants of "lock her up," a reference to Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton — and joined in himself.

It was a strange position for someone who was a career military officer and a registered Democrat from Rhode Island.

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The military is famous for working long hours, not only on overseas deployments to hot spots like Iraq or Afghanistan but back home, too. It's almost a badge of honor.

So balancing work and family life can be especially difficult for those in uniform. Take Air Force Maj. Johanna Ream.

She's working a high-powered, top-secret job. Her husband's an Air Force cargo plane pilot who flies all over the world. And they were the parents of an infant named Jack when this happened:

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