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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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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.

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