How do dual-military couples succeed in their careers? According to Army aviators James and Laura Richardson — who are both lieutenant generals — teamwork is the key.
“I would not be where I am today without being married to her,” Lt. Gen. James Richardson said during the Joint Women’s Leadership Symposium on Aug. 22, quoted in an Army news release. "It’s Team Richardson, it really is. And that’s how you have to operate … She knows what I’m going through. I know what she’s going through every day. So if you have to come home at 9 or 10 o’clock at night, she understands.”
He and Lt. Gen. Laura Richardson, who have been married for 33 years, originally met in the 1980s when they were stationed in South Korea. Since then, the couple has been stationed all over the world, both separately and together.
For example, the two simultaneously deployed to Iraq during the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom, leaving their teenage daughter with Laura’s grandparents in Colorado. According to James, sharing duty stations with his wife became increasingly challenging as both their careers progressed.
"You want to stay together as much as you can," James said. "When you get up to our ranks, it's hard to stay together. The higher you go in the service, the harder it is to be together."
When James and Laura haven’t shared the same duty station, the couple and the service have worked to try to station them at bases close to one another. For example, Laura now commands U.S. Army North based at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas — approximately 80 miles from James, who is stationed in Austin and serves as U.S. Army Futures Command’s deputy commanding general for combat development.
Given the nature of their careers, the couple said they’ve been required to plan ahead, and have taken advantage of available Army resources to help them adjust. As parents, they thoroughly studied their new duty stations and would secure childcare before lining up housing so they could live close to their childcare provider.
Because of the complications that accompany dual-military service, Laura has encouraged other dual-military families to speak out about their experiences.
“I think it’s important to share the challenges that you have and also the rewarding things that come out of it as well,” Laura said. “And share your experiences. We didn’t have necessarily anybody to share dual military (experiences) or tell my husband and I, ‘hey, try this.’”
Despite the challenges, Laura said she believes being a dual-military family was beneficial for her career and her husband’s because of the unique experience it provided them.
“The compromises that we made — both of us did that — really made us more marketable as officers in the Army,” Laura said. “Because we didn’t have the typical assignments that just a straight helicopter pilot would have. I think as we got higher in the rank that really paid off.”
Ultimately, James said he and Laura have helped each other grow, which has allowed them to advance in their careers.
"It's not about me. It's not about her. It's about the team. And that's how we got through. We've communicated,” James said. “We've helped each other in our careers as we've moved up."
According to a 2018 White House report on military spouses in the labor market, the Department of Defense reported in 2016 that 12 percent of military spouses are also active-duty military. The same report found almost half of active-duty women who are married are in dual-military marriages.