Army Lt. Gen. Laura J. Richardson is picking up a fourth star just before she takes over as head of the Latin America-focused U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) on Friday.
Gen. Richardson‘s promotion takes effect just before Friday’s change-of-command ceremony at SOUTHCOM headquarters in Miami. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Gen. Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will attend the event.
Gen. Richardson is taking over from Adm. Craig S. Faller, who is retiring after nearly four decades in the Navy.
The Senate confirmed her nomination to head up SOUTHCOM in August. Gen. Richardson is a career aviation officer who most recently was commanding general of U.S. Army North at Fort Sam Houston in Texas.
U.S. Southern Command is one of the military’s six geographically-focused unified commands. It is responsible for U.S. defense and security cooperation efforts with nations in the Caribbean, Central America and South America. As SOUTHCOM commander, Gen. Richardson will be in charge of all U.S. military operations in the region.
During her Senate hearing, Gen. Richardson said the U.S. must remain the “partner of choice” throughout the Western Hemisphere and cited the “predatory” actions and “malign influence” of countries like China and Russia.
“Southern Command … is of strategic importance to U.S. vital interests and, if confirmed, I will synchronize our approach to security cooperation, working across all combatant commands to narrow the gaps and seams our competitors are exploiting,” she said.
Gen. Richardson was confirmed by unanimous vote.
She is married to Lt. Gen. Jim Richardson, who is currently the deputy commanding general of U.S. Army Futures Command in Austin, Texas.