Highest ranking woman in U.S. military history is TROY alumna


The most powerful woman in the U.S. military earned a master’s degree from Troy University.

Earlier this year, Air Force Gen. Lori Robinson was named commander of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and United States Northern Command (NORTHCOM), making her the first female combatant commander in the country’s history.

“While I recognize it’s historic, I don’t dwell on that description,” Robinson said. “I am the NORAD-NORTHCOM commander. I am a general. I am an Airman. I just happen to be a woman. I am a part of something bigger than myself. I represent all those in the military who make sacrifices everyday along with their peers in order to defend this great nation.”

Robinson’s Air Force career began in 1982. A decade later, she obtained a master’s degree in education leadership and management from TROY in 1992.

Gen. Lori Robinson
Gen. Lori Robinson

“I had the privilege to obtain my master’s from TROY while I was a Captain,” Robinson said. “It was through distance learning, which allowed me to continue to focus on work, but also broaden my background. It helped me obtain a master’s early in my career, which I believe added to the diversity of my overall professional education.”

Her journey through the Air Force ranks was never supposed to happen. In fact, she only planned on serving temporarily.

“Growing up, my dad was a huge influence on my decision to join,” said Robinson, one of only two women who are four-star generals in the Air Force. “When I joined the Air Force over 30 years ago, I only planned to serve for a couple of years, until I quit having fun or no longer felt like I was making a difference. I didn’t expect to make the rank of Major. General Officer wasn’t even something I considered for my future.”

Nearly 35 years after she joined, Robinson believes being successful in the military is about three things: attitude, aptitude and seizing upon an opportunity.

“At the U.S. Air Force fighter weapons school, I received the greatest compliment I could ever get: ‘If I’m on a tough mission, I want Lori Robinson on the radio,'” she said.

She said her first few months in her new position flew by as she gained understanding about both her operational commands.

“I worked to define how they are separate and yet overlap in the no-fail mission of defense of our homelands,” Robinson said.

Now, her attention is on combining her expertise and that newfound understanding to lead both positions going forward.

“The NORAD-NORTHCOM team is truly an incredible and capable one, which I’m humbled to lead and look forward to growing in terms of its roles, its relationships and its readiness,” Robinson said. “As I work to grow this binational command, I am also focused on strengthening our trusted partnerships with Mexico and the Bahamas to advance our theater’s security. And of course, we must take care of our people – our service members and their families. They are our foundation and the future of our nation’s military.”

Despite the groundbreaking nature of her rise to power, Robinson said she’d give the same advice to every person who joins the military, whether man or woman.

“Our military is a meritocracy; everyone starts on equal footing,” she said. “Strive to be your very best every day and push the boundaries to meet and exceed the standards. Continue to have a positive attitude. And when an opportunity arises, seize it!”