Brig. Gen. Laura Richardson, commander of the U.S. Army Operational Test Command at Fort Hood, is congratulated by Lt. Gen. Donald M. Campbell Jr., commander of III Corps and Fort Hood, during her promotion ceremony Friday at III Corps Headquarters.

By Colleen Flaherty
Killeen Daily Herald

FORT HOOD — U.S. Army Operational Test Command leader Laura Richardson became Fort Hood’s second female general officer ever Friday during a ceremony under the giant U.S. flag outside of III Corps Headquarters.

Richardson’s family, including her daughter, Lauren, helped her change her colonel’s rank insignias to those of a one-star general, including on her epaulets and beret.

Post commander Lt. Gen. Donald M. Campbell Jr. gave her a general’s belt and one-star flag, traditionally used to signify the presence of a general.

Richardson’s depth and variety of experience in the Army, excellent communication skills and success at current, complex command make her “everything the Army and the nation expects and needs in a general officer,” he said.

The ceremony also marked the addition of a second Brig. Gen. Richardson to Fort Hood; Richardson’s husband, Brig. Gen. James Richardson, is the 1st Cavalry Division’s deputy commander for support.

Currently deployed to Afghanistan, he watched live video of the ceremony from Regional Command-East, where he has been since last summer.

Richardson thanked her husband of 25 years, who, at four years her senior, has at times outranked her and set an example to follow — and exceed.

“I knew he would be the competition for me to beat,” she said, joking that she would send soldiers to dirty the floors of his battalion headquarters when they were both battalion commanders with the 101st Aviation Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, at Fort Campbell, Ky.

She called her husband a true “warrior and exceptional father and husband,” and called her daughter, a recent college graduate, her “principal achievement in life” who will forever be “my baby girl.”

Naming other formative figures in the crowd, including her parents, Dr. Jan and Suzanne Strickland, Richardson said promotions are not “about one person, they’re about the people who helped you along the way.”

Fort Hood’s last female general officer was Maj. Gen. Jeanette K. Edmunds, who took command of the 64th Corps Support Group in 1995, according to III Corps.

Richardson is one of 29 currently serving female general officers in the Army, of 423 total, according to III Corps.

Richardson’s past jobs include Army Senate liaison officer and garrison commander of Fort Myer, Va., and Fort McNair, Washington, D.C. She led the 5th Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment, an assault helicopter battalion, into battle in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and served as a military aide to former Vice President Al Gore, carrying the briefcase with the nation’s nuclear launch codes.

“Only the best are entrusted with the so-called nuclear football,” Gore said of Richardson in a 2003 Time magazine story about her family. Richardson appeared on the cover with the words “When mom goes to war.”

For more on this story, read the next Fort Hood Herald.