Gen. Lori Robinson

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Air Force Gen. Lori Robinson long discussed for the job

She takes over the Northern Command

CNN  — 

It was another first for women in the military.

Air Force Gen. Lori Robinson was appointed Friday to lead U.S. Northern Command, becoming the nation’s first female combatant commander.

“It is humbling,” Robinson said at the ceremony at Peterson Air Force base in Colorado. “It is an honor. 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.”

Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Robinson, a four-star general, was tapped because she was the most qualified for the post and called her a “superb officer.”

“She was selected because she was the most qualified officer,” Carter said. “I hope that the excellence she represents is an inspiration to women to join our armed forces.”

Being a combatant commander is a prerequisite for serving as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, making her the first woman who could qualify for that spot.

Carter announced in March that he had recommended Robinson for the position to President Barack Obama.

At the time, the defense secretary described her as having “very deep operational experience,” “very good managerial experience” and, it “just so happens, would also be the first female combatant commander.”

Robinson, who had most recently serve as commander of Pacific Air Forces, had long been talked about as a possibility for the position.

Northern Command oversees military operations in the continental United States, Alaska, Canada and Mexico. There are six regional combatant commands that oversee military operations around the globe. There are also three additional functional commands that oversee space, special forces and transportation operations.

Combatant commands are led by a four-star general or admiral. The first woman to achieve the rank of four-star general was Army Gen. Ann Dunwoody, who received the promotion in 2008.

Robinson first entered the Air Force in 1982 and became an air battle manager, which are responsible for command and control of aircraft in air battle space.