By Amanda Miller
Lieutenant General Laura Richardson is the commanding general of U.S. Army North at Joint Base San Antonio and is poised to be promoted to serve as commander of one of the U.S. military’s 11 unified combatant commands.
But as an undergraduate student and Army ROTC cadet at Metropolitan State University of Denver, she didn’t know whom she wanted to be.
“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.
President Joe Biden announced on March 8, International Women’s Day, that he had nominated Richardson for promotion to four-star general and to serve as 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 be only the second woman to serve in such a high-ranking position.
Her remarkable rise through the ranks includes multiple trailblazing roles with the Army.
After serving in South Korea, Richardson in the late 1990s served as military aide to then-Vice President Al Gore during his presidential campaign. She went on to be the Army’s first female commander of a combat helicopter battalion when she deployed to Iraq in 2003. She would later become the first female deputy commander of a combat armor division, the 1st Cavalry Division based at Fort Hood, Texas. As a colonel, Richardson commanded Fort Myer, Virginia, and Fort McNair, Washington, D.C., then went on to serve as the Army’s liaison officer to the U.S. Senate and deputy commander, then acting commander, of U.S. Army Forces Command, the Army’s largest command. Richardson’s current command at U.S. Army North has coordinated the military’s medical response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Biden recognized Richardson’s distinguished Army career and “barrier-breaking accomplishments” in a White House ceremony that also nominated Air Force Gen. Jacqueline Van Ovost for promotion. He described both women as “outstanding and eminently qualified warriors and patriots” when nominating each of them to four-star commands. The promotions were reportedly delayed by officials in the Trump administration over fears that the former president wouldn’t approve of women in those positions.
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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