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.

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Here's something to ponder: how do you define a war game? And when is it a military exercise, or just simply..."training."

That's at the heart of some confusion between the White House and the Pentagon, an institution that doesn't - unlike President Trump - use the term "war game."

The president suspended one large military exercise and a couple of smaller ones in a good faith gesture with North Korea in June, an effort to spur talks about the country's nuclear program.

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At the White House today, President Trump presented a posthumous Medal of Honor, the nation's highest award for valor, to the widow of Air Force Technical Sergeant John Chapman.

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Russian officials are saying the meeting in Helsinki between President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin resulted in an agreement that includes cooperation between the two countries in Syria.

Speaking at a news conference next to Trump on Monday, Putin said establishing peace and reconciliation "could be the first showcase example of the successful joint work. Russia and the United States apparently can proactively take leadership on this issue," including overcoming the humanitarian crisis and helping Syrians go back to their homes.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who rushed into Syria three years ago in an effort to save his ally President Bashar Assad, now says he can work with the U.S. to bring peace and reconciliation to the war-torn country.

"As far as Syria is concerned," Putin said, standing next to President Trump at the Helsinki summit, "the task of establishing peace and reconciliation in this country could be the first showcase example of this successful joint work."

Garlin Conner never spoke to his wife about his actions outside Houssen, France, that brutal January day in 1945. And he never spoke about any the other battles he witnessed in North Africa or Sicily, and on to Italy, France and finally Germany.

He fought in 10 campaigns, took part in four amphibious landings. And he was wounded seven times.

"Many of the time he'd wake up in the night with nightmares," recalled Pauline Conner. "And after, I would wake him up, and he would go outside, sit on the porch and smoke cigarettes for hours at a time."

The Pentagon is being asked by the Department of Health and Human Services to provide temporary beds for up to 20,000 undocumented children. That bed space would be needed beginning in July and running through the end of the year.

Officials tell NPR that four bases are expected to provide space, including the Army's Fort Bliss base in El Paso, Texas. It's uncertain if there would be enough barracks space, so officials say that tents likely would have to be put up.

Just as darkness fell, Capt. Austin S. "Scott" Miller was hunkered down in a building in Mogadishu, Somalia, together with his soldiers from the U.S. Army's elite Delta Force.

It was Oct. 3, 1993, and a Black Hawk helicopter had just been downed by local militants in the battle of Mogadishu, what would become the core of the book and movie Black Hawk Down. Miller was awarded a Bronze Star with a valor device for the nearly day-long battle that left 18 Americans dead and 73 wounded — including Miller.

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American troops have been stationed on the Korean Peninsula for nearly 70 years. More recently they've become something of a political football.

North Korea wants them out as part of any nuclear deal. South Korea wants them to stay to help with its defense. And President Trump is considering reducing their numbers to save money.

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On Thursday, the Pentagon will release the results of an investigation into the deaths of four American soldiers who were ambushed last October by ISIS fighters in the African country of Niger. The attack raised questions about whether the soldiers had enough training and equipment, and whether they were taking too many risks in working with local forces in Africa.

NPR has obtained details of the yet-to-be-released report, which says there was no single failure, and no deficiency was the sole cause for the men's deaths outside the village of Tongo Tongo on Oct. 4, 2017.

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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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