- Associated Press - Sunday, October 19, 2014

HONOLULU (AP) - Gen. Lori Robinson received a fourth star Thursday and became head of Pacific Air Forces, making her the first woman to lead the major air command.

Robinson, who now oversees more than 46,000 personnel, 10 wings, nine bases and about 400 permanently assigned aircraft in a region that encompasses 52 percent of the globe, is the Air Force’s second female four-star general after Gen. Janet C. Wolfenbarger, who was promoted to the service’s highest rank in 2012.

“Ladies and gentlemen, Gen. Lori Robinson, commander, Pacific Air Forces,” an announcer said during the command change in Hangar 19 at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.

“Wow, wow,” Robinson said hearing the new title.

She thanked Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh III and Adm. Samuel Locklear III, the head of U.S. Pacific Command, for the confidence to select her “at a time when regional and global events pose increasingly serious challenges to the international community and to our national security.

“Our international friendships and partnerships have never been more important than today as we endeavor to safeguard and continue an environment that has fostered prosperity in the region and the world over the past decades,” Robinson said. “In these coming weeks, I look forward to a seamless transition by meeting with our key allies and partners.”

Locklear, whose headquarters are at Camp H.M. Smith, noted the gravity and importance of Pacific Air Forces in a region where North Korea continues to be “extremely unpredictable” and now has “road-mobile nuclear weapons that can range our homeland.”

Locklear also pointed out the rise of China and India in the region that’s the most militarized in the world.

Robinson comes to Pacific Air Forces from a job as Air Combat Command’s vice commander and with past experience as a senior air battle manager in both the E-3 Sentry airborne warning and control system and E-8 JSTARS aircraft, the Air Force said.

She replaces Gen. Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle, who will become head of Air Combat Command in Virginia. PACAF, as it’s known, is the air component of Pacific Command.

At least the last five Pacific Air Forces commanders have been pilots. The fact that Robinson is not a pilot is not an issue, said Michael O’Hanlon, a defense expert at the Brookings Institution.

Robinson “has considerable expertise and experience in weaponry, which is closely related to combat as well, clearly,” O’Hanlon said. “Second, there are many aspects of what the Air Force is doing and trying to do in the region that don’t involve flying combat aircraft.”

Intelligence, space activities, alliance stewardship, logistics support for relief operations and support for the work of other services are some of the other things that Pacific Air Forces undertakes, O’Hanlon said.

“Lori comes to us as the exactly right general officer for the times that we face,” Locklear told several hundred airmen and officials at the change of command. “She’s had multiple operational commands. She has multiple joint commands. She’s had multiple (Washington) D.C. tours — so she knows how to get things done as we approach probably another year or two or more of very difficult (budget) decision-making in the joint force.”

O’Hanlon recently co-authored an article in The National Interest noting that Robinson is the third woman serving in the military with four stars, the highest attainable rank.

“While this welcome news should be celebrated,” the article states, “it must not be misinterpreted to announce the elimination of the institutional barriers women face in the military.”

There was scant mention of the gender break during Thursday’s command change.

Afterward, U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, a captain in the Hawaii Army National Guard, said it was a chicken-skin moment “seeing (Robinson) standing there receiving that salute from her command for the very first time and know there are many, many other female service members across the country who look at examples like this and are inspired to continue their service.”

Robinson, who served in Hawaii from late 1989 to August 1992, is married to retired Air Force Maj. Gen. David Robinson.

Welsh said the couple met at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada when Dave Robinson was trying out to be a member of the Thunderbirds flight demonstration team.

“Together they are a force of nature,” Welsh said. He added, “Folks, PACAF remains in great hands.”

Locklear lauded the job Carlisle had done since taking over in August 2012.

“He’s exceeded everything I asked him to do,” Locklear said.

Carlisle’s efforts helped lead to the signing of numerous milestone agreements with partner nations, and he drafted an integrated air and missile defense strategy “to address one of the most significant challenges in theater,” Locklear said.

He was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for exceptionally meritorious service.

Carlisle applauded the job done by the airmen under his command.

“Every day, PACAF airmen work alongside the Army, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard and interagency partners to defend U.S. interests, and they truly do make us the greatest fighting force the world has ever known,” he said.


Information from: Honolulu Star-Advertiser, https://www.staradvertiser.com

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