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A native New Mexican, Col. Neil Richardson was born in Carlsbad and grew up in Santa Fe. He was commissioned in 1995 through New Mexico State University’s Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps program. The Department of the Air Force recently announced Richardson’s selection to the rank of Brigadier General, to be conferred during a ceremony in spring 2021.
While he’s been stationed across the country and around the world during more than two decades in the U.S. Air Force, the NMSU graduate says he’s still an Aggie at heart. As the first military member in his family, he credits his NMSU AFROTC experience with giving him the foundation for his successful career.
“The cadre was a big proponent of servant leadership and that has served me well in my 25 years in the Air Force,” Richardson said.
Richardson is currently the Chief of the Air Force Senate Liaison Division in Washington D.C., where he engages with Congressional members and their staffs on a wide range of issues pertaining to the Air Force and the Department of Defense. Previously he was the 87th Air Base Wing Commander at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey, the Defense Department’s only tri-service joint base.
In 1995, Richardson received his bachelor’s degree in management information systems and met and married his wife Melissa while attending NMSU. She is a 1994 NMSU graduate with her bachelor’s degree in accounting.
“The ROTC cadre taught me a lot about leadership – taking care of people – and helped me grow in many ways,” Richardson said. “The cadre allowed me to build on these skills and in a short two years, I went from new cadet to the cadet commander for the entire AFROTC detachment.”
Richardson is a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Weapons School and has commanded at every level and served combat tours in the Middle East. An Air Force navigator by trade, he went on to fly the C-130 Hercules with assignments in Germany, Japan, and Washington, D.C., among others.
“The Air Force offered me the opportunity to fly as a navigator and I loved every minute of that part of my career,” he said.
Richardson, his wife Melissa, daughter Katie and sons Garrett and Gage, live in Virginia now. Richardson’s oldest daughter lives in South Carolina with her husband, who is also in the Air Force. But New Mexico is still in their blood. Richardson’s parents live in Clovis and his wife’s family lives in Albuquerque.
Richardson started his college career at NMSU majoring in criminal justice and took an internship with the New Mexico State Police, but changed his major to attend Eastern New Mexico University, where his parents and his brother received their degrees.
You can take the man out of Las Cruces but you can’t take away his Aggie sprit. Richardson spent one year at ENMU but returned to NMSU to complete his college education.
“I went ‘home’ to Las Cruces to finish a degree in management information systems,” Richardson said. “I was in love with the area and I was an Aggie at heart so it just felt right to go back.”
What does Richardson miss about New Mexico? The people, NMSU basketball in the Pan Am, beating the Lobos, the sunsets, the food, weather, diverse topography and, of course, Hatch green chile.
Although his promotion to Brigadier General is a result of 25 years of hard work and commitment, Richardson is grateful to NMSU’s AFROTC cadre for giving him the skills and the confidence to be a servant leader.
“I will humbly say that they saw things in me that I would not have seen otherwise,” Richardson said. “I am eternally grateful for their instruction and the trust they displayed in allowing me to learn and grow in their leadership laboratory.”