For former Metropolitan State University of Denver graduate Laura Richardson, it’s not exactly a ‘small school girl made good,’ story. Far from it. For this MSUD alum, more formally and professionally addressed as Lieutenant General Laura Richardson, ‘made good’ rather undersells this Northglenn native’s accomplishments.
Richardson, a three-star officer, is the Army’s first female Commanding General of the U.S. Army Forces Command at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Her role is to command nearly 780,000 soldiers and 96,000 civilians. And while leadership seems to fit Richardson perfectly, it’s not exactly something new.
The oldest of four siblings, Richardson is described succinctly as “the leader,” by her parents, retired Dr. Darwin Strickland and wife, Susie. But leading this sibling pack was no small job. Her siblings were no slouches, themselves. Her brother is an attorney and retired Army Lieutenant Colonel, one sister is a physician and retired Army Major and her other sister is a nurse. A medical condition shortened her Army experience.
Richardson, recalled her father, was “headstrong,” as a child. “She almost destroyed me because she loved to ride the roller coaster at old Elitch Gardens,” he said in a telephone interview. “We’d go over there and maybe ride the roller coaster eight, ten times---that’s when she was real little!”
Her ‘headstrong’ qualities didn’t end there. She earned a pilot’s license at age 16. Then, after graduating from Northglenn High School, went on to Colorado University where she dipped her toe into the ROTC program. She later transferred to Regis before graduating from Metro State. For good measure, she also achieved All-America status as a swimmer. “She was a seven-time All-America swimmer,” her father is quick to enumerate.
Post college, Richardson earned her commission as an Army Second Lieutenant and shortly after got her wings as a Blackhawk helicopter pilot. From then on, she has steadily risen in rank and stature achieving a number of ‘firsts’ along the way.
Richardson has served in Korea and Iraq. It was when she was being deployed to Iraq that she was featured on the cover of TIME Magazine in March 2003. The story’s angle was that both she and her husband were both deploying. Richardson is married to Lt. General James M. Richardson.
Richardson’s Army accomplishments are story book. When she was commissioned, women had only been flying the Blackhawk helicopter for a few years. Richardson flew hers in combat.
Richardson’s accomplishments, while amazing, have neither shocked nor surprised her parents. “She’s been well prepared for the job,” said Richardson’s mother, Susie. “She’s very competitive and it paid off in the long run. But all of our children are,” she added quickly.
Beyond command positions, Richardson has also served as military aide to Vice President Gore and Army liaison to the U.S. Senate.
Richardson’s record of accomplishment is also a source of pride to MSUD, said MSUD President Janine Davidson, “Her achievements are emblematic of many of the University’s graduates.” Richardson, said Davidson, should serve as an “inspiration” for any MSUD student.
Having a graduate like Richardson, said MSUD Board of Trustee member, Joe Rice, is also a great example for students who don’t get military appointments to service academies. “Clearly, she (Richardson) is the most successful graduate coming out of (MSUD) ROTC,” he said. “You can get launched into your career from places like Metro State,” said the retired Army Colonel and Iraq War veteran.