The American people need to know that the U.S. military is a true meritocracy that’s open to all citizens who meet service standards, Air Force Gen. Lori J. Robinson said at the White House-sponsored United State of Women Summit here June 14.
Robinson, the commander of U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command, spoke at the summit before thousands of women at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. She is the first female U.S. combatant commander.
The general highlighted the critical role women play in the defense of the nation, and she used her own story to illustrate her points.
Robinson told the audience she was from an Air Force family, but had no intention of having a military a career. She was commissioned out of ROTC when she graduated from the University of New Hampshire in 1981.
At the summit, she reflected on the oath she took in 1981, especially the line “I solemnly swear to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”
“Think about how powerful that is,” she said. “Think about how amazing that is — the fact that we are pledging our allegiance not to a person or an idol or a gimmick, but to an idea — the idea of freedom and that all people are created equal.”
Robinson said changes made in the U.S. military with regard to the employment of women in the ranks has been incredible, but there are things that haven’t changed.
“The United States military is a meritocracy on day one,” she said. “Every person raises their right hand and says, ‘I solemnly swear,’ and at that moment can pick a career and service of their choosing.
“And, a lieutenant is a lieutenant is a lieutenant, starting out day one with equal pay, starting out day one with paid leave, and starting out day one with the opportunity to dream about an adventure,” she continued.
When Robinson entered active duty, she said, military specialties in which women could serve were severely restricted. That has changed, and she pointed to women commanding fighter air wings, combatant ships and becoming Army Rangers as proof.
“As I’ve watched over time, I’ve noticed it’s about attitude,” she said – striving to be the best and thinking about the glass as being half-full as often as possible.
Along with attitude goes aptitude, the general said.
Robinson noted that all jobs in the U.S. military are now open to all service members, regardless of gender. And, the military continues to maintain a high standard to serve for a reason, she said.
“Everybody lives up to that standard, and it is so important because we ask our young Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen to defend this country every day, and sometimes we ask them to fight and win our nation’s wars,” Robinson said. “It’s about duty, honor, country, character, and it’s about sacrifice.”