Archived: Air Force Gen. Lori Robinson Named First Woman Combatant Commander

By Sheryl Estrada

Defense Secretary Ash Carter named Air Force General Lori Robinson a new commander for U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM). President Obama will nominate Robinson and pending Senate confirmation, she will make history as the first woman to lead a U.S. combatant command.

Adm. Bill Gortney has been in the position since December 2014. Robinson would replace him and becomethe top general overseeing activities in North America.

Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook sent a tweet March 18 announcing Robinson’s nomination:

Robinson, who entered the Air Force in 1982 through the ROTC program at the University of New Hampshire, is currently commander of Pacific Air Forces (PACAF). PACAF is responsible for Air Force activities in a command that supports airmen serving mainly in Japan, Korea, Hawaii, Alaska and Guam.

She also is the air component commander for U.S. Pacific Command and executive director of the Pacific Air Combat Operations staff at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii.

Robinson said on March 8 the Air Force would continue to fly missions over the South China Sea despite China’s buildup in the region and the construction of artificial islands. She also urged China to avoid a “miscalculation.”

“We’ve watched the increased military capability on those islands, whether it’s the fighters, whether it’s the missiles or the 10,000-foot runways,”she said. “We will continue to do as we’ve always done, and that is fly and sail in international airspace in accordance to international rules and norms.”

Related Story: First Black Woman Promoted to Three-Star Army General

In January, the Defense Departmentlifted all gender-based restrictionson military service. Current female service members and incoming recruits can now serve in any military job for which they meet the gender-neutral performance standards and other requirements.

Carter said Robinson has proven her capability for the position.

“Gen. Robinson’s remarkable abilities as a commander and strategist have been proven over more than three decades of dedicated service to the U.S. Air Force,” he said in a statement. “Her most recent responsibilities as air component commander for U.S. Pacific Command, leading more than 45,000 airmen and overseeing operations at an intense operational tempo covering half the globe have demonstrated that she is supremely qualified to lead NORAD and NORTHCOM.

“Gen Robinson has excelled in a wide array of leadership positions where training, force structure, and readiness are paramount. Her deep operational experience will enable the men and women of NORAD and NORTHCOM to continue building upon the excellence they have demonstrated under Adm. William Gortney’s strong and steady leadership in this critical command.”

Robinson was named a one-star brigadier general in 2012, since then she has risen to the upper ranks of the military.

Prior to her role at PACAF, Robinson, 57, was vice commander of Air Combat Command. She is a senior air battle manager with more than 900 flight hours in the E-3B/C and E-8C aircraft.

Robinson has commanded an operations group, a training wing, an air control wing and has deployed as vice commander of the 405th Air Expeditionary Wing, leading more than 2,000 airmen flying B-1 Lancer, KC-135 Stratotanker and E-3 Sentry in operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom.

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