Joe Bowman was born in 1959 in Vallejo, California. He enlisted in the U.S. Air Force on June 27, 1978, and completed basic training at Lackland AFB, Texas, in August 1978. His first assignment was with the 820th Civil Engineering Squadron (Red Horse) at Nellis AFB, Nevada, and then with the 57th Fighter Weapons Wing, also at Nellis. He cross-trained into the Security Police career field in 1982, and then served at Robins AFB, Georgia; Florennes AB, Belgium; Castle AFB, California; Spangdahlem AB, West Germany; Minot AFB, North Dakota; Howard AFB, Panama; and Vandenburg AFB, California, where he retired from the Air Force on November 1, 1999. During his assignment with the 52nd Security Police Squadron at Spangdahlem AB he deployed to Saudi Arabia and served as a Base Center Operations Cluster controller with the 4410th Operation Support Wing during Operation Desert Storm. Sgt Bowman also responded to the Cuban riots in Panama in December 1994, deployed to Columbia in 1996, and served a subsequent tour in the Middle East in 1997 with the 4406th Operations Group (Provisional).
His Airman's Medal Citation reads:
Sergeant Joseph P. Bowman distinguished himself by heroism involving voluntary risk of life at Luna Lake, Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, on 14 April 1983. On that date, Sergeant Bowman rushed to the area where a vehicle and its occupants had sunk into the lake. With complete disregard for his own safety, Sergeant Bowman, without hesitation or direction, entered the dark, frigid water to aid the personnel in the vehicle. During the rescue efforts, one of the rescue members encountered difficulties in swimming and sank to the bottom of the lake. Sergeant Bowman, risking his own life and after repeated efforts, was successful in freeing the rescue member and getting him to shore. By his courageous action and humanitarian regard for his fellowman, Sergeant Bowman has reflected great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.