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SAN ANTONIO -- Sgt. 1st Class Mariela Richardson never meant to be the top Army Reserve recruiter, she just did what she was told. Her first sergeant instructed her to prepare to appear before a quarterly board. That eventually led to her appearance before a battalion, brigade and finally a command board.
"Every time the Army has thrown something at me I've embraced in a positive way," Richardson said. "And I have always learned from it. I take on a challenge because I know I'll learn from it if I make mistakes."
Making it to the final board at U.S. Army Recruiting Command headquarters meant she would be scrutinized by its most senior enlisted leaders and compete against the best in other brigades. None of that mattered as much as the fact that she had flown her daughter away so she could attend the final event at Fort Knox, Ky., because her Green Beret husband was deployed at the time.
"I always think of my daughter. It was my time away from my daughter. I better win this," Richardson said. "That was my motivation."
In spite of the prizes she earned along with the respected title, for her the most meaningful reward was the confidence she gained to overcome difficulties and that the stress of it all was not in vain.
Now as the command's Army Reserve Recruiter of the Year, Richardson has sat next to the USAREC commanding general and the chief of the Army Reserve during pregame activities leading toward the Army All-American Bowl. She has interacted with several All-Americans and met other distinguished youth.
"Coming to the All-American Bowl is a great opportunity," Richardson said. "A lot of Soldiers don't get to see this part of the Army."
She plans to take this experience and talk about it with her potential applicants in Thornton, Colo., where she serves as the assistant recruiting center commander. For her, the experience of the All-American Bowl is another example of how the Army is full of opportunities.
Richardson made that discovery after joining in 2001. She wanted to ensure nothing would complicate her plans to apply for police academy upon reaching age 20. But she grew to love the Army and stuck around longer.
Born in Zacatecas, Mexico, Richardson grew up in Alhambra, Calif., and joined the Army as a green card holder. She became a U.S. citizen in 2005. She has been recruiting young men and women for the past three years with the Los Angeles and Denver recruiting battalions.