Gen. Lori J. Robinson is currently Commander, United States Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command, Colorado Springs, Colorado.
General Robinson has deep roots in the Air Force. Her father served in the USAF for thirty years, including as a pilot in the Vietnam War. When he accompanied her to the confirmation hearings for her appointment to head United States Northern Command, she said, “I have looked up to my father my entire life.” Her husband, Maj. Gen. David Robinson, USAF (Ret.), was a pilot with the Thunderbirds.
General Robinson joined ROTC at the University of New Hampshire, where she received a bachelor of arts in English. After receiving her Air Force commission on May 24, 1981, she went on to serve in a variety of increasingly demanding Air Force and joint assignments. She demonstrated her ability to grasp complex situations and craft militarily appropriate solutions as commander of the 552d Operations Group and vice commander of the 405th Air Expeditionary Wing that flew B–1B Lancers, KC–135 Stratotankers, and E–3 Sentries in support of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. Col. Maria Carl, USAF (Ret.), later observed that “She has an ability to take all the different pieces of the picture and put it together strategically.” In addition to her command accomplishments, Gen. Robinson demonstrated her academic dedication by completing a master of arts in education leadership and management from Troy State University in 1991 and a master’s degree in national security and strategic studies from the Naval War College in 1995.
After leading the 17th Training Wing and the 552d Air Control Wing, General Robinson served as Vice Commander of Air Combat Command. An Air force barrier-breaker, she became the first woman to lead a U.S. component major command when she was named Commander, Pacific Air Forces, in October 2014. At her change of command ceremony, Air Force chief of staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh attested to her military skills: “Gen. Lori Robinson is a phenomenal leader and a proven operator.” Describing her as “a fast learner,” Maj. Gen. Darryll Wong, USAF (Ret.), noted that she had assumed command of a challenging area, where “You’re dealing with a lot of countries, a lot of air forces in the Pacific, China being one of them.” General Robinson affirmed her strategic vision, commenting “As you well know, airpower brings a unique, asymmetric advantage, with speed, range, and flexibility to this immense area of responsibility. I pledge to be a full-up partner and component commander, providing my best military advice on how airpower and other PACAF capabilities can best serve your priorities.”
In May 2016, General Robinson became Commander, United States Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command, Colorado Springs, Colorado. As the first woman to lead a U.S. combatant command, she pointed out the importance of homeland defense: “I can’t think of a more sacred responsibility than defense of the homeland. And to be able to do that and be in this level of command is unbelievable.” When announcing her appointment, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said, “She was selected because she was the most qualified officer.” Colonel Carl, later noting General Robinson’s understanding of the Air Force’s broad role in space, cyber security, and drones as well as traditional flying and fighting, believed that “Gen. Robinson reflects that change as much as anything else,” and that it was the breadth of Robinson’s vision, not her gender, that made her truly unique.
Secretary Carter acknowledged Gen. Robinson’s place in Air Force history, saying at her United States Northern Command installation, “I hope the excellence she represents is an inspiration to women to join our armed forces.” At the same ceremony, Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson, the first female superintendent of the United States Air Force Academy, said that Gen. Robinson served as an inspiration to female cadets: “They appreciate seeing somebody they can aspire to.”