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US President Joe Biden (C) arrives, flanked by the nominees to positions as 4-star Combatant Commanders General Jacqueline Van Ovost (L) and Lieutenant General Laura Richardson, to speak during International Women

Lieutenant General Richardson nominated to lead U.S. Southern Command

The MSU Denver alumna would be just the second woman to be promoted to four-star general in the Army.

April 2, 2021

By Amanda Miller

Army Lieutenant General Laura Richardson is the commanding general of U.S. Army North (Fifth Army) at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston and is poised to be promoted to commander of one of the U.S. military’s 11 unified combatant commands.

But as an undergraduate student and Army Reserve Officer Training Corps cadet at Metropolitan State University of Denver, she was still finding her path.

“If you don’t know where you’re going, it will be hard to get there,” Richardson told an audience gathered in March 2019 for the 50th anniversary of the city of Northglenn, her hometown. She said she discovered her destination in the Army through Northglenn High School athletics, MSU Denver and the ROTC.

RELATED: Trailblazing Army Lieutenant General Laura Richardson talks leadership

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III announced March 6 that President Joe Biden had nominated Richardson for appointment to the grade of general and to be the next commander of U.S. Southern Command based in Florida, which is responsible for U.S. military operations in Central America, South America and parts of the Caribbean. If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, she would become the Army’s second female general and the first woman in the Army to serve in such a high-ranking position.

Lieutenant General Laura Richardson speaks at Northglenn Community Center on March 4, 2019 for International Women
Lieutenant General Laura Richardson speaks at Northglenn Community Center on March 4, 2019 for International Women's Day. Photo by Alyson McClaran

Her remarkable rise through the ranks includes multiple trailblazing roles with the Army, including as the Army’s first female commander of a combat helicopter battalion when she deployed to Iraq in 2003. Richardson’s current command at U.S. Army North, whose primary mission is homeland defense, has also overseen the military’s medical and vaccination support to the federal Covid-19 pandemic response.

On International Women’s Day, March 8, Biden recognized Richardson’s distinguished Army career and “barrier-breaking accomplishments” in a White House ceremony that also included Air Force Gen. Jacqueline Van Ovost, whom the president nominated to lead U.S. Transportation Command, another unified combatant command. He described both women as “outstanding and eminently qualified warriors and patriots” when nominating each of them to four-star commands.

Watch: Lieutenant General Laura Richardson's 2019 International Women's Day speech at Northglenn Community Center

It’s no surprise that Richardson persevered to earn the nomination. She lauded the Army to her hometown crowd for providing her with the direction she needed as a young woman.

“Serving my country is truly the work that I love,” she said. “From my time as a platoon leader – my very first job in the Army – to serving as acting commanding general of U.S. Army Forces Command, I have found my life’s work very satisfying. I’ve always felt that I’ve made a positive difference by providing my soldiers with the best leadership possible to (ensure that) our Army is best-postured for success in the future.”

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