General Laura Richardson visited Northglenn High School on April 27 to pitch students that the army is a good path forward.
Richardson, a familiar face as a former Norsemen, is the Army’s highest-ranking female, a four-star general and leader of the U.S. Southern Command. Many of the skills and lessons learned at Northglenn stick with her today.
“To think of my teachers and my swimming coach and the athletic director that helped shape and mold me when I was in high school, and kept me going in the right direction was huge,” she said.
She touts the many opportunities and perks the military has given to her and said students can take advantage of them, too. Some of those are the 178 different jobs to choose from, traveling the world, being part of something bigger than oneself and serving the country.
While at Northglenn High School, she didn’t get exposed to any programs that led to the military, such as JROTC. She became involved after her father introduced her to ROTC while in college.
Introductions are key and sometimes that exposure comes from spreading the word, at a time when the army needs more soldiers.
“We absolutely need more soldiers and more people to serve,” Richardson said.
Stars and Stripes, a media outlet, reported that Army Secretary Christine Wormuth said recruiting is a top priority of hers and that the army missed their recruiting target by 15,000 people in 2022.
As to why, Richardson looks to the job market. Historically, when there’s a good job market, recruiting goes lower. She also said it’s the lifecycle of service — there are a certain number of retirees that need to be replaced.
She hopes that coming home to Northglenn will help get more Coloradoans enlisted, and hopes teachers and other staff paid attention since the military is always evolving.
“Once people know about it, unless someone introduces you to this, you may not ever know what a great opportunity lies away out there for many of our young people,” she said.
She said it wasn’t a directive for generals to head back to their hometowns to advertise the opportunities and her presentation was part of her visit home. When she heads back to Miami, she’ll be doing similar events.
The low recruitment numbers also come as foreign tensions rise, such as the Russia-Ukraine War. But those issues aren’t pushing the army to give more attention to recruiting, she said.
“This is nothing new. It's not new for our country to face challenges we have had over centuries,” she said.
Richardson also emphasized that the United States is proud of its democracy. Many of the foreign tensions are with communist countries.
“(Communist countries) don't abide by a rule of law. They don't abide by human rights. We do in the United States. And we should be really, really proud of that,” she said.
Richardson visited home to speak at Metropolitan State University’s graduation in 2021, and at that time, Congress passed a bill that stopped short of requiring women to be in the draft. Back then, she said “That’s a decision by our country.”
When asked whether any progress in the past year was made to include women, she said the all-volunteer force keeps the quality of the service and readiness standards up.
“People are volunteering, they (don’t) want to have to (enlist,)” she said.