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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.

Maj. Gen. Edward Dorman III says training for Chinese soldiers in Washington state can "build trust between the two countries. I think we reduce the potential for misunderstanding."
Courtesy of U.S. Army

Chinese soldiers have landed in Washington – but don’t be alarmed.

Eighty members of the People’s Liberation Army are in the state this week learning about disaster response. They’re working alongside troops from Joint Base Lewis McChord as well as personnel from the National Guard and state and federal agencies.

Marine veteran John Knox arranges fall produce at the Growing Veterans farm stand at the VA Hospital in Seattle. Knox says learning to farm helped him make the transition back to civilian life.
KUOW photo/Patricia Murphy

Army vet Josh Wheeldon can tick off a half-dozen veterans groups he has volunteered with: The Mission Continues, AmeriCorps Vet Corps, Team Rubicon, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, 22Kill, Seattle Stand Down and Team Red White and Blue.

He’s also a lifetime member of the older Veterans of Foreign Wars. But he doesn’t always feel like he fits in there.

Oregon says it's making strides in finding housing for homeless veterans and just announced funding for two new housing projects for vets.

The leadership of the American Legion and VFW is seeking younger, more diverse members. But they face a challenge changing their public image.


Groups like the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars have served former service members for a century. But declining membership threatens to lessen their influence.


The last American was drafted in 1973, but the U.S. maintains an elaborate infrastructure to re-activate the draft if Congress ever decides it's needed.


As more military jobs are opened to women, Congress may face the question of whether to require women to register for the Selective Service.


A U.S. recovery team has returned to a remote part of India to try to retrieve the remains of troops killed in World War II. Family members say a border dispute between India and China has delayed recovery efforts for years.


In the past few years, the Pentagon spent $6.8 million to pay for patriotic displays during the games of professional sports teams.

That's according to a joint oversight report released by Arizona Republican Sens. John Flake and John McCain on Wednesday.

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.

Giving new detail to an operation that has been hinted at in recent days, the White House says President Obama has authorized the deployment of a small number of U.S. Special Operations Forces troops — fewer than 50 — to help fight ISIS in Syria.

The new $11 million Intrepid Spirit Center is being privately funded through the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund.

Andrew Holmes, a former soldier from Boise, is speaking out about his war crimes and his time in prison. He was the youngest member of what came to be known as the “kill team” from Washington’s Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

Navy veteran Donald Lollis said he's been sleeping on the streets for six months. 'They give you an honorable discharge and you just do the best you can. And that's how I've been living.'
KUOW Photo/Posey Gruener

It's 3 a.m. on the first day of a massive free clinic at Seattle Center. Anyone who needs medical, dental or vision care can find help here today — first come, first served. 

An Iraq vet named Ryan Mielcarek addressed the crowd: “By a quick show of hands, do we have any veterans in the audience here today?”

Mielcarek is the South Sound platoon leader with the veteran volunteer group, The Mission Continues. Their goal is to connect with veterans experiencing homelessness, more than 600 in King County according to official estimates.

Note: This story is an update to a story first reported in 2012 in collaboration with the Seattle Times.

Between 2008 and 2011, more than 20,000 soldiers and Marines were given “other than honorable” discharges from the military. Now, one soldier from Salem, Oregon, has learned his discharge will be upgraded.

Speaking from the Roosevelt Room of the White House, President Obama said on Thursday that slowing down the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan is "the right thing to do."

"Afghan forces are still not as strong as they need to be," Obama said, so the United States will leave 9,800 troops in the country through most of 2016. By 2017, about 5,500 troops will remain in a few bases across the country.

Obama said that the U.S. mission in Afghanistan will remain focused on two non-combat objectives: to train Afghan forces and carry out counterterrorism operations against al-Qaida.

U.S. Will Keep More Troops In Afghanistan Than Planned

Oct 15, 2015

Senior administration officials say President Obama will announce Thursday that he will keep a larger military presence in Afghanistan than he had planned. The president had hoped to whittle the U.S. forces down to just 1,000 by the time he left office.

The officials say 9,800 troops will stay in Afghanistan through most of 2016, and 5,500 in 2017.

NPR's Mara Liasson reports the decision was driven by recent successes by anti-government Taliban fighters:

U.S. Army Capt. Jennifer Peace (right) and her wife, Debbie, with their youngest daughter at their home in Spanaway, Wash.
KUOW Photo/Patricia Murphy

Capt. Jennifer Peace walks into the room, a tall, thin woman in crisp uniform, with minimal makeup and trim brown hair.

But when soldiers call her ma’am, she has orders to correct them. They must call her sir.

U.S. troops in Afghanistan lowered the flag and boxed up their gear at the end of last year as President Obama declared the formal end to 13 years of U.S. combat operations.

File photo of Bowe Bergdahl at his graduation from basic training with the Army.
Bergdahl family

There’s a recommendation on whether Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl will face a court martial, but it’s not being released to the public yet.

Bergdahl’s attorney says the hearing officer overseeing the Army’s case sent his recommendations Monday to the U.S. Army Forces Command at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

The international aid group Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières) is calling for an international investigation into what it calls a war crime in Afghanistan — Saturday's U.S. airstrikes that killed 22 people, including medical staff and patients at the organization's hospital in Kunduz.

Department of Veterans Affairs
Department of Veterans Affairs

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray is calling for disciplinary action after a Veterans Affairs investigation found that staffers in Seattle dumped mail about vets’ benefits in a yellow bucket and left it for months. 

A single number has shaped the way that Americans think about young military veterans.

It's the number 22, as in, 22 vets take their lives each day.

The number has become a rallying cry for advocates trying to call attention to suicide among vets, especially those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Twenty-two, not some vague, rounded-off number. Not 30, not 20. Twenty-two.

A number so specific it inspires action. Speeches, fundraisers, marches and even walks clear across the country.

But 22 doesn't quite add up.

Reporter Ashley Ahearn dug into the Northwest history of the B-17 bomber with her father, Joe Ahearn, Jr.
EarthFix Photo/Katie Campbell

There’s an old photograph in my father’s office that I’ve always wondered about. In it my grandfather and nine other young airmen stand in front of their B-17 plane, shoulders squared, staring proudly at the camera. They were probably in England at the time, getting ready to fly bombing raids over Germany in 1943.

Share Your Family Connection To World War II

Sep 27, 2015

In a recent story, KUOW Ashley Ahearn reports on the making of the B-17 bomber in Seattle – and the women who moved here to work on Boeing’s production lines.

We want to hear from you. How was your family affected by World War II? Share your memories and photos with us. Write to pictures@kuow.org. If you send photos, please be sure to describe what's pictured.

Submissions may be published at KUOW.org and our social media accounts.

File photo of Joint Base Lewis-McChord headquarters.
KUOW Photo/Kara McDermott

Outrage is growing over the potential discharge of a Special Forces soldier from Joint Base Lewis McCord who beat an Afghan police commander accused of raping a young boy.

The practice of bacha bazi – an Afghan term for powerful men using adolescent boys for sex – and just what American troops have or haven’t done about it is getting renewed attention now, but the debate isn't new.

File photo of Bowe Bergdahl at his graduation from basic training with the Army.
Bergdahl family

U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl faces a hearing Thursday to determine whether he’ll be court-martialed on a desertion charge.

Olympic College in Bremerton will receive money that will help to pay for a veteran center for students.
Olympic College

Lake Washington Institute of Technology in Kirkland and Olympic College in Bremerton will get a little more than $100,000 for the next three years to help student veterans.

The grants from the Department of Education will help create centers for student veterans. 

Veteran Housing Vouchers Scorned by Landlords

Sep 4, 2015

The building manager's office was closed, but Veronica Schenkelberg and Adrian Carrillo decided to wait.

All day, they'd been hitting buzzers and knocking on doors, looking for an apartment for Carrillo, and this building showed promise--it had an apartment available, and from what Carrillo could gather online, it took Section 8 housing vouchers.

After 35 minutes, Cindy Morrison arrived to unlock the door and deliver the same statement the two had been hearing all day:  The building doesn't take federal rent assistance vouchers.

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