Pentagon nominates first female combatant commander

U.S. Air Force General Lori Robinson. © U.S. Air Force / Senior Airman Katrina M. Brisbin
The Pentagon has nominated its first ever female combatant commander. If approved by the Senate, US Air Force General Lori Robinson will be the new Northcom chief, responsible for any missile threats against the homeland.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Air Force General Lori Robinson would be the first female combatant commander in the US military when he made the announcement on Friday. President Barack Obama has approved the choice, and now her nomination depends on Senate approval.

Robinson currently commands Pacific Air Forces (PACAF), a role she has served since 2014, and is air component commander for US Pacific. PACAF is responsible for Air Force activities spread over half the globe in a command that supports more than 46,000 airmen mainly in Japan, Korea, Hawaii, Alaska and Guam, according to the Pentagon.

In a Department of Defense news report, Secretary Carter said the general “has very deep operational experience, [and] is now running the air forces in the Pacific, which is a very challenging place for the Air Force and a very intense operational tempo.”

Carter said by naming the first female combatant commander, the military has “coming along now a lot of female officers who are exceptionally strong. Loris certainly fits into that category.”

Robinson’s rise follows recent gains by women in the military to serve in combat roles and opens the door to a future female chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, according to Stars and Stripes.
The military has already begun to recruit women for combat jobs, including as Navy SEALs, and new plans could see them serving in previously male-only Army and Marine Corps infantry units.

The top Army and Marine Corps generals told senators in February that it will take up to three years to fully integrate women into all combat jobs, according to the Associated Press.

The Marine Corps initially sought to keep certain infantry and combat jobs closed, citing studies showing combined-gender units are not as effective as male-only units. But the Defense Secretary Carter and Navy Secretary Ray Mabus rejected the proposal.

If selected Robinson would replace Admiral William Gortney.