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Tom Bowman

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.

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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.

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NPR's Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman is going to talk to us now about the current military operation in Sinjar. And Tom, to begin, what's the U.S. strategy in taking this area around Mt. Sinjar?

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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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Russia joined the combat in Syria without coordinating its approach with the United States. Now planes from both nations are bombing targets in Syria.

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An extraordinary image at the United Nations yesterday, Vladimir Putin as peacemaker. Russia's president stood before the general assembly sounding ready to lead peace efforts in Syria.

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Hundreds of Vietnam combat helicopter pilots, their families and Gold Star families planted a tree in Arlington National Cemetery on Friday to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first U.S. combat troops entering the Vietnam War.

The group called it the largest gathering of pilots, with 1,000 expected, says Bob Hesselbein, president of the Vietnam Helicopter Pilot Association, which is holding a five-day meeting in Washington that ends on Saturday.

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