Female General to Head Combatant Command

Female General to Head Combatant Command

Female General to Head Combatant Command

When people see this headline, they are likely to think that Lori Robinson is taking command of a rough and tumble infantry or combat arms ground unit. In fact, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter didn’t really try to change that impression when he said,“Gen Robinson, it just so happens, would also be the first ever female combatant commander.” However, Lori Robinson is a four star general in the Air Force, which has a distinct absence of ground combat units. She will be taking charge of US Northern Command based in Colorado. Not trying to take anything away from General Robinson; it is great that she has risen on her competency and merits to this high profile command position, and she is a fantastic role model for other women who wish to have a rewarding military career.

Air Force General Lori Robinson
Air Force General Lori Robinson

Air Force General Lori Robinson will be appointed as the next head of the US Northern Command (NORTHCOM), which is responsible for the defense of the US “homeland” with an area of operations that extends from Alaska to portions of the Caribbean.

The command was created in the aftermath of the 11 September terror attacks to coordinate and improve homeland defence and to provide support for other national disasters.

This promotion rewards this woman’s accomplishments and can serve as a guide to all services that women should be considered for command positions generally. Simply being a woman does not make someone ineligible for command. Women as are capable as men as serving with honor and distinction in the role of a commanding officer. Further, any command that has a corresponding component of high level management in a stressful environment such as a combat theater should be given equal weight as those commands that incorporate combat arms missions.

The reason for pushing women into combat started off as being a beef about women not having the same promotion opportunity as men. Men, who were eligible for commanding combat units, were able to gain an advantage in the promotion process. This was true for any man – if he was able to gain combat leadership experience his resume would be much stronger than another man who had command experience but who was not in a combat arms unit. So the military culture rewards those who have proven themselves in a combat environment – not surprising, and not necessarily an unfair result. If a man wants a combat arms position he must compete for it. If he doesn’t want it, then he goes in with the understanding that his career opportunities will be affected accordingly. In the past this has been a significant issue just within male promotion opportunities – so men fight to get combat arms specialties, and combat theater assignments.

However, once this disparity showed up in the form of women’s promotion opportunities also being affected by the lack of combat experience, and not because they made conscious choices not to enter combat arms, but because they were prohibited from doing so, the idea to open up combat positions to women came to life. The problem of lack of promotion paths for women was correctly diagnosed, but the remedy road we have taken will put us in the ditch.

The way to improve the career benefits for women in the military is not to put them into combat, but to properly evaluate the criteria deemed valuable for promotion. Command experience is essential, particularly when reaching the field grade ranks, and command experience in combat is certainly an achievement to be held above nearly all other accomplishments. In fact, combat command experience should still be held as one of the highest accolades one could achieve in the course of a military career.

But achieving combat distinction should not be limited to the narrow combat arms specialties or command of a combat arms unit. As we are painfully reminded, there are no front lines anymore, so any unit that experiences similar stresses or operates in a combat environment should be given the same credit for combat command. For example, this could include supply or transport units that have missions that take them into combat zones. Had this been the tack taken to correct the lack of promotions for women in the military, mission, unit cohesion, and women’s health would not have been threatened as it is now with the opening of all combat arms positions to women.

There may still be a tiny handful of women that would truly have wanted and been able to compete with men for combat positions, but the number is so small that it cannot justify the repercussions we will be feeling from this ill-fated journey down Social Justice lane.

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11 Comments
  • J walter says:

    This begs the question. Is the general in her position because of merit, or because she is a female?

    These days I ask that question a lot. Did that ER doctor I saw last month get there because she was the best or because she checked a box?

    Twenty years ago I would have said she was there because she was the best. Today, I think she is there because feminism / special treatment.

    It’s sad. I actually think it hurts females. Do females earn their positions? I feel bad for the females that earned their position and always get second guessed.

    • Jenny North says:

      Your instinct has unfortunately become a predictable response to situations like this. I would say that in her position it probably is all about merit – she’s had an impressive career (thanks Wikipedia) and she is also in the Air Force which has a different culture than other services. Like I said, I don’t want to take anything away from her, but trying to tout her promotion as a combat command is a little far afield from what we have been discussing with regard to women in combat. Really different things in my opinion. You are spot on about a lot of the “progress” being counterproductive. 100%.

  • Ted Munch says:

    “But achieving combat distinction should not be limited to the narrow combat arms specialties or command of a combat arms unit. As we are painfully reminded, there are no front lines anymore, so any unit that experiences similar stresses or operates in a combat environment should be given the same credit for combat command.”

    Nonsense. It isn’t combat unless two things occur: you are actively trying to kill the enemy, and the enemy is actively trying to kill you.

    Truck driver, personnel clerk or intelligence officer aren’t combat functions, even if the pursuit of those functions exposes one to danger and hostile fire. General Robinson’s previous positions of “staff assignments as command briefer” certainly are not combat functions. Giving PowerPoint presentations in a secure headquarters do not kill the enemy, nor expose one to enemy fire.

    Your suggestion is the common feminist ploy of lowering standards and redefining words to bring women the benefits and honors traditionally bestowed on men who make the highest sacrifices for their country, without actually having to incur the risks or pay the price.

    In my reading of Lori Robinson’s Wikipedia resume, she is a career staff weenie who has never been in a combat occupation. In my opinion, she does not have the credentials to be a combat commander. There are other women who have served as fighter or bomber pilots who do have those credentials. I would be much happier to see one of them assume her command; they know what it means to fly into hostile fire, and to deliver death and destruction. As it stands, General Robinson looks like another affirmative action appointment.

    • Jenny North says:

      You really insult me when you say I am using a feminist ploy – that is exactly what this post is about – Obama using the appointment of a female to a “combatant command” to make us think this woman is actually going to lead a ground combat unit. It’s a subtle shift to make the public think, “Oh we are already there.” Then it gets ingrained into the culture, and then, “What’s the big deal?” And then the social justice war is won. You can debate her credentials, but her qualifications and this type of command is not what the debate is about in my opinion.

      You don’t address the underlying problem of females being shut out of promotion because they lack combat experience. Why shouldn’t any individual get credit for leading in a combat theater? You can debate the definition of what qualifies as combat (you seem to acknowledge that being far away from your target can qualify), but just because your MOS isn’t combat arms, doesn’t mean you can’t excel in a combat situation.

  • Ted Munch says:

    “You don’t address the underlying problem of females being shut out of promotion because they lack combat experience.”

    That is a standard feminist concern. Why are you insulted when I point out that you use a “feminist ploy”, when you are making a feminist argument?

    For a feminist, it is paramount that women can utilize military service to acquire status and power, so “being shut out of promotion” is a most serious problem. The actual warfighting capability of the military is irrelevant. By contrast, someone concerned about the security of the nation would place the warfighting capability of the military first. The equality of women in the military would be a distant second, if not irrelevant. Since you ask how women’s careers can be best advanced, not how the security of our nation can be best protected, you show that you are a feminist.

    “Why shouldn’t any individual get credit for leading in a combat theater?” Because a combat soldier, marine, sailor, or airman has not only volunteered to risk their life, they have committed to try to kill other human beings if commanded to do so. Killing people is a terrible thing to do, and a terrible burden to bear. Those who have killed in combat bear that burden the rest of their lives. Those who command combat servicemen to kill should have once borne that same responsibility.

    In addition, one who hasn’t trained for combat is unlikely to understand the strengths and limitations of combat units. The best leaders rarely lack detailed insight into the challenges their subordinates face. They ask the impossible, they make stupid demands, and their decisions are governed by concerns extraneous to the military outcome.

    If society wants equality for women in the military, then women should bear all the burdens of the combat servicemen. If society actually wants to win wars, then the military should be the domain of men, commanded by warlike men with combat MOS’s, and the lack of promotion opportunities for women a necessary sacrifice to that end. But you want the feminist option – women get the status and power of command, without bearing the burdens of serving as a combat servicemen. And that truly is the worst option of all.

    • Ted Munch says:

      “The best leaders rarely lack detailed insight into the challenges their subordinates face. They ask the impossible, they make stupid demands, and their decisions are governed by concerns extraneous to the military outcome.”

      Should be:

      The best leaders rarely lack detailed insight into the challenges their subordinates face. But poor commanders often lack such insight. They ask the impossible, they make stupid demands, and their decisions are governed by concerns extraneous to the military outcome.

      • Jenny North says:

        I think you need to read the rest of my postings on women in combat roles because I make no such argument that women should be promoted simply because I am concerned about their career goals. I am not. I am first and foremost concerned that our military remain a strong fighting force. I happen to believe that admitting women into the military is a strength, not a weakness, and that finding the right roles for women within the military is a better goal than trying to make women into infantrymen.

        It is because women were not being promoted, unfairly, that this whole stupid women in combat push happened. The excuse was that they didn’t have combat experience – but the real reason was because the culture could not conceive of women in leadership. If women had been valued in the positions where they already did stellar work and not arbitrarily excluded then the idea for women taking on roles better suited for men would not have been on the SJW radar, at least for another few decades.

        In response to: “Why shouldn’t any individual get credit for leading in a combat theater?” Because a combat soldier, marine, sailor, or airman has not only volunteered to risk their life, they have committed to try to kill other human beings if commanded to do so. Killing people is a terrible thing to do, and a terrible burden to bear. Those who have killed in combat bear that burden the rest of their lives. Those who command combat servicemen to kill should have once borne that same responsibility.

        -You seem to think that military women have never experienced shooting in the direction of the enemy or have not been shot at, or are incapable of acting competently in that situation. This has already happened, and women have already been decorated with combat awards. Women are perfectly capable of bearing this burden, and in fact already do. And when they do, they should be recognized just as anyone should who has been in this situation.

        I will repeat what I said in the post – anyone, man or woman that serves in a situation where they face the same stresses of combat that a combat arms MOS faces should be given credit for serving in a combat theater. This means that while a person leading in a combat zone might be given more “points” for promotion, it does not rule out any MOS for leading in combat. If a person sitting at a control board thousand of miles away flying drones can be said to be in a combat MOS, why can’t a person on the ground in an actual combat zone have appropriate credit for that role?

        Because ground combat units will necessarily encounter more opportunities for combat they should rightly be recognized for doing a good job in those situations, but don’t discount non-combat arms MOSs for doing similar good work IF their experience calls for it. Had this been the approach, I really believe these idiots playing SJW would not have been able to make the case for women in combat. The promotion blockade was the cudgel – there was not some army of women beating down the doors to get into combat.

        Read carefully – I am not saying that women should be in all combat arms MOSs. I am saying when leading in any combat situation, any individual, regardless of sex or MOS, should get credit for combat leadership. Your argument seems to be that women shouldn’t be in the military at all. Well that horse has left the barn and for good reason. That isn’t a position that makes our military stronger.

        • Ted Munch says:

          I’ll quote from another one of your posts:

          “Today, as we frequently hear, women regularly work in combat zones. This experience should count toward the combat requirement, not just the narrowly defined combat arms positions like infantry, artillery, or tanks. Leadership under stress should be the standard.”

          That’s nonsense. Serving somewhere sort of in a combat zone where you just might, if very unlucky, get shot at, is nothing at all like being in a position of getting shot at 24/7 AND trying to kill a bunch of guys who are working very hard to kill you. That’s a whole different level of stress.

          Nothing you’ve said addresses my basic objection, which is that you want women to get combat promotions without actually having to be in combat. And that is the standard feminist have their cake and eat it to agenda.

          “Your argument seems to be that women shouldn’t be in the military at all. ”

          No. My argument is that we either prioritize equality or combat effectiveness. If we are to prioritize equality for women in the armed services, we should do it 100%, with no special treatment or exemptions for women. If combat effectiveness suffers, too bad. If women get injured or killed at a high rate, well, they asked for it. But if we prioritize combat effectiveness, we have to be willing to sacrifice equality. Perhaps that isn’t necessary, but I think it is. In my experience, men are better soldiers than women, and all-male units are more effective than mixed gender units.

          I’ll quote you again:

          ” If there were a way to integrate combat arms without destroying uniquely valuable male bonds that allow for successful combat missions, it might be done, but there is no way to add women to the mix without damaging this incredible necessary attribute of all-male units. ”

          Exactly. And those “valuable male bonds” extend up and down the command chain, too. No male combat soldier wants a female staff weenie commanding general. Talk about demoralizing.

          • Jenny North says:

            I do not want women to get credit for anything they haven’t done to the same standard as anyone else who does get credit. I have said nothing contrary to that. The problem exists because this was not happening. If they had promoted women appropriately before the issue of putting women into combat arose, then we would not be here. It is because women were shut out unfairly. Ask around, any senior military person will tell you the same thing.

            You are making an argument that you can only get promoted if you endure the exact same combat experience as a grunt. Well, there are plenty of people who won’t get promoted if that is the standard. And if that is the hardline standard then we will need to fully evaluate exactly how many firefights a person was in, how many bullets came down range, maybe add in confirmed kills. That is not the standard for leading in combat as it stands now. But you would get a lot of accolades for it, rightly so.

            My biggest objection to your comments is that you have taken a line that says women cannot lead in combat. This is not supportable. There are combat arms MOSs where women excel – most notably pilots. Those also tend to be units where unit cohesion and success of mission is not as dependent on all male bonding. You will not get an argument from me that women should be in a traditional combat arms unit – even if she could pass the physical test. Because I am only one of a few who I have seen to ever acknowledge the value of all male units for certain tasks.

            Leigh Ann Hester and Monica Brown have both earned Silver Stars. One is an MP and one is a medic. Both showed heroism under combat conditions – they performed their jobs in an exemplary fashion and Hester was in a leadership position as well – leading men. These women prove that women can perform in combat. The service and their fellow servicemen are the better for having these alongside them on the battlefield.

            http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/06/16/AR2005061601551.html

            http://www.cbsnews.com/news/pvt-monica-brown-and-the-silver-star/

            • Ted Munch says:

              “My biggest objection to your comments is that you have taken a line that says women cannot lead in combat. This is not supportable. There are combat arms MOSs where women excel – most notably pilots. ”

              No I haven’t. I refer to my first comment, where I said: “There are other women who have served as fighter or bomber pilots who do have those credentials. I would be much happier to see one of them assume her command; they know what it means to fly into hostile fire, and to deliver death and destruction.”

              See, I have been consistent in my arguments: combat means being trying to kill someone who is trying to kill you; being incidentally involved in combat and acquitting yourself well is commendable, but it isn’t the same thing as being a combat serviceman who does that for a living; the top positions in the military should held by individuals who served in combat arms. A female combat pilot meets all three requirements – I would not object at all to a new female 4-star commander who had been an A-10 pilot who kicked ass in Iraq. You go girl! But a female staff weenie doesn’t cut it. Neither does medic or MP who was in a firefight once, as commendable as her actions may have been.

              You, on the other hand, are not principled. You talk about the value of all-male combat unit cohesion, but you won’t accept the logical conclusion it entails; that the combat leadership is going to consist primarily of men who rose from those ranks. Neither are you willing to accept the logical conclusion of equality, that women will have to serve in combat roles, consequences be damned.

              No, you want some way to have it all. So you weasel and twist and try to get your way, even if it makes no sense. And this is what women always do, and it’s one of the reasons why it’s such a pain in the ass to incorporate women into a male environment. Because women always want what women want, and they will always try whatever manipulations they can think of to get what they want from men.

              What you want is some way that women can get recognition for combat without having to be in combat arms, because you want women to get promotions, because “no fair”, but you don’t want women to have to endure the rigors of the combat arms. So you want one firefight to count the same as a career in infantry, one firefight where the one woman gets all the glory, while the men who fought along side and the man who was her senior and actually led the fight are unheralded. You don’t want to consider the demoralization on the male cadre when affirmative action females are promoted to command them. You don’t consider how career combat servicemen respond to the female officer who got her combat merit badge in some incidental “combat” event. And you probably don’t want to consider the demoralizing effect of all the “sexual harassment” and “affirmative consent” and “white male privilege” lectures that fighting men are subject to instead of training for their mission, but these things are considered necessary when females are introduced to a male fighting environment.

              Ultimately I have more respect for the hard-core feminists than so-called “conservative” women such as yourself, your military service excepted, because at least some of the former are willing to accept female casualties and military ineffectiveness in their pursuit of status and power. And I have a lot of respect for traditional women who advocate for the primacy of the female nurturing role. But women like you, who want what they want when it’s convenient for them, consistency or consequences be damned – I don’t respect that much at all.

              • Jenny North says:

                And wait for it, here it is:

                “No, you want some way to have it all. So you weasel and twist and try to get your way, even if it makes no sense. And this is what women always do, and it’s one of the reasons why it’s such a pain in the ass to incorporate women into a male environment. Because women always want what women want, and they will always try whatever manipulations they can think of to get what they want from men.”

                Gee, when you use language like this I just get so confused. You’ve got me all twisted up, and my girly arguments are just no match for your manly man point of view.

                Your resort to a stereotypical insult shows me exactly who you are. First you say I’m a feminist (that really hurt!) and now I’m a typical manipulative female who would seemingly use her feminine wiles to get her way. Wow, you so don’t know me.

                Despite this sniveling response which doesn’t deserve much civility on my part, I’ll try one more time. You have so far refused to acknowledge the lack of fair promotion opportunity in the military – to such an extent that the LOGICAL conclusion of YOUR argument is that women should not be promoted, which in turn leads to the conclusion that there is no place in the military for women. See, that is where the consequences of your principled consistency really end up.

                Somehow I knew you would do this too:

                “So you want one firefight to count the same as a career in infantry, one firefight where the one woman gets all the glory, while the men who fought along side and the man who was her senior and actually led the fight are unheralded.”

                I knew you would diminish what the woman did, because all she did was perform as good as a man. Thanks for making that point. Thanks for proving that women have to work harder than men to get the same credit. I’m also sorry I can’t give you an example of women leading in a more substantial way in ground combat, but oh yeah that’s right – they were banned!

                You just need to admit that you really think there is no place for women in the military. What does this mean if not that:
                “then the military should be the domain of men, commanded by warlike men with combat MOS’s, and the lack of promotion opportunities for women a necessary sacrifice to that end.”

                There should have been room for promotion of women in support roles; there are plenty of men in support MOSs, and this might come as a surprise to you but not all generals are combat arms. Women have a valuable place in the military, but men brought this on themselves when they arbitrarily, without regard to merit, failed to recognize the contribution of women.

                It is not contradictory to recognize the achievements of women in combat environments and still believe that some combat arms assignments are best undertaken by all male units. If you think that’s inconsistent you don’t have a lot of depth to your thought process. And since your responses have devolved into gender assigned ad hominems I’ve got other things to occupy my time. I’m sure you’ll understand. I’ve got to go do my nails and wash my hair and pick out my shiniest diamonds; I have to look my best for all my gentlemen callers!

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