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U.S. Air Force—The New York Times/Redux

When I joined the U.S. Army Reserve in 1992, there were no female four-star generals. I still remember the day in 2008 when a woman first achieved that rank.

But the biggest step forward will likely come later this year, when the Senate confirms Air Force General Lori Robinson as head of the U.S. Northern Command, making her the first woman to serve as combatant commander.

In the military, a combatant command is the ultimate job. It’s the pointy tip of the spear, overseeing the people carrying the rifles and flying the aircraft. Northern Command, created the year after the 9/11 attacks, is also prestigious because it protects our homeland. That is such a tremendous commentary on where we are as a nation.

For years, women were barred from combat roles, closing off their route to the senior leadership. General Robinson’s appointment makes clear to every female lieutenant that the top jobs are now open to them.

Duckworth, a member of Congress from Illinois, served as a U.S. Army helicopter pilot in Iraq

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