A Strategic Commander
UA Alumnus Leads U.S. Strategic Command
Navy Vice Adm. Charles Richard’s career has taken him both under the sea and back in time, and now it has taken him to the top of U.S. Strategic Command
Richard, who earned an electrical engineering degree from The University of Alabama in 1982, was confirmed by the U.S. Senate in November 2019 as head of one of 11 unified commands in the Department of Defense. The U.S. Strategic Command’s mission, according to its website, is to deter strategic attack and employ forces, as directed, to guarantee the security of the nation and its allies.
In response to an advance policy question posted on the Senate Armed Services Committee website during his nomination process, Richard responded, in part, with these words.
“I consider it a privilege and an honor to serve this great nation and fully recognize the complexity our military faces given the present and projected world security situation,” Richard’s response read. “I do not possess all the answers, but I will remain open to a wide variety of expert opinions in order to inform and offer my best military advice.”
Richard has been a Navy officer for more than 37 years, serving in multiple capacities. As commander, Submarine Forces, he was the undersea domain lead and was responsible for the submarine force's strategic vision. As commander, Submarine Force Atlantic, he commanded all Atlantic-based U.S. submarines, their crews and supporting shore activities.
In a 1998 interview with the UA College of Engineering’s alumni magazine, Richard fondly recalled one of his UA professors, Dr. Daniel Hollis, for both his knowledge of nuclear engineering and for his ties to the military branch with which Richard would soon become accustomed.
“Dr. Hollis was a Naval Academy guy, so the course was very disciplined and demanding,” Richard said. “That experience gave me my first lessons on what is required in order to succeed as a practicing engineer. Some of the first lessons I learned were how to set goals and how to pay close attention to detail. Both of these are absolutely required in my field.”
Earlier in his career, Richard, at 38, was the Navy’s youngest commanding officer of a nuclear-powered submarine, the NR-1. That vessel, a research submarine, was used for both scientific and military purposes. Equipped with powerful survey lights, underwater video cameras and a manipulator arm that allowed the 150-foot ship to retrieve items from the ocean floor, the vessel was capable of diving to depths of more than 3,000 feet.
In one mission during which Richard commanded the NR-1, the Navy coordinated with civilian scientists for about two months in straits off the coast of Italy. There, they discovered four shipwrecks, three of which were approximately 2,100 years old. Archaeologists from England, Canada and Italy participated in the effort to learn more about ancient shipbuilding.
Richard, who earned master's degrees from the Catholic University of America and the Naval War College, has served more than 37 years as a Naval officer in various capacities, including as deputy commander, U.S. Strategic Command.
“I learned at Alabama and in the Navy that you must look at a problem from many different aspects” Richard said. “In the engineering field, you get paid for getting the right answer. In order to get this right answer, though, you must first have a fundamental understanding of all the engineering principles.”