Carter Nominates 1st Female Combatant Commander

  • Air Force Gen. Lori Robinson
    Air Force Gen. Lori Robinson
  • Army Gen. Vincent Brooks
    Army Gen. Vincent Brooks

Air Force Gen. Lori Robinson was named by Defense Secretary Ashton Carter on Friday as the nominee to head Northern Command, which would make her the first woman leader of a combatant command in the history of the U.S. military.

Carter also said that Army Gen. Vincent Brooks, now head of U.S. Army Pacific (USARPAC), had been chosen to take over command of U.S. Forces Korea. He would replace Army Gen. Curtis M. "Mike" Scaparrotti, who has been named to become the next NATO Supreme Commander and head of European Command.

At a breakfast session with Politico, Carter said that President Obama had signed off on approving the nominations of both Robinson and Brooks.

If confirmed by the Senate, Robinson, now commander of Pacific Air Forces, will replace Adm. Bill Gortney, who has headed NorthCom since December 2014. Her nomination will culminate a fast rise through the upper ranks of the military. She was named a one-star brigadier general in 2012.

Brooks' nomination signaled the Pentagon's commitment to the rebalance of forces to the Asia-Pacific region. At USARPAC, he has been the architect of the "Pacific Pathways" initiative aimed at getting the Army more involved in the region through the rotation of troops on training exercises with allies.

Carter called Robinson one of a number of female officers "we have coming along" who qualify for top posts. "We have an amazingly deep bench," he said. Carter cited Robinson's managerial experience and her "very deep experience running air forces in the Pacific."

Brooks has been the commander "shepherding Pacific Pathways" and his nomination showed that the U.S. military viewed the Asia-Pacific as "the single most consequential region of the world" for U.S. security, Carter said.

Robinson, 57, joined the Air Force in 1982 following the ROTC program at the University of New Hampshire. She later held a staff position in command of Airmen who flew the B-1 Lancer bomber, the KC-135 Stratotanker and the E-3 Sentry aircraft in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Earlier this month, Robinson pledged that the U.S. would continue to fly missions over the South China Sea despite China's buildup in the region and the construction of artificial islands, and she 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," Robinson told reporters in Australia. 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."

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at

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