Early life and education
Ricardo Sanchez was born September 9, 1953 into a poor Mexican American family residing in Rio Grande City, Texas. During the Vietnam War (1969–73), Sanchez was attending college.
Spending one year at the University of Texas at Austin on an ROTC scholarship, he eventually transferred to Texas A&M University in Kingsville, Texas, where he graduated in 1973 with a double major in mathematics and history and was named a Distinguished Military Graduate (DMG), meaning he was in the top 10% of all ROTC cadets in the nation. He was later commissioned as a second lieutenant in the United States Army.
Stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Sanchez became a platoon leader in the 82nd Airborne Division, transferring from the infantry to armor in 1977. He received regular promotions and was stationed at various posts in the United States, Korea, Panama and Germany.
In 1991, then Lieutenant Colonel Sanchez served as a battalion commander during Operation Desert Storm. He successfully led his unit of the 197th Infantry Brigade (Mechanized) into Basra without sustaining any casualties. Sanchez was promoted to Colonel shortly after the Gulf War, and was given command of the 2nd Brigade of the 1st Infantry Division. Subsequently, he served on the staff of U.S. Southern Command, first as deputy chief of staff then as director of operations.
By then a general, Sanchez was given command of V Corps’ 1st Armored Division on July 10, 2001, holding that position for nearly two years when, on June 14, 2003, he assumed command of the entire corps and also became Commander of Combined Joint Task Force 7, the coalition of ground forces in the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq. Throughout the majority of his time commanding 1st Armored Division, Sanchez had been a brigadier general.
Lt. Gen. Sanchez held the top military position in Iraq throughout one of the most critical periods of the war—the year after the fall of the Hussein regime, and the time the insurgency began to take root and proceed with its counterattack. Highlights during his tenure as commander in Iraq include the killing of Saddam Hussein’s sons Uday and Qusay and the capture of Saddam Hussein himself.
Sanchez was succeeded as commander of coalition ground forces in Iraq by four-star general and former Army Vice Chief of Staff George Casey.
Career after Iraq
Lieutenant General Sanchez relinquished command of the Multi-National Force Iraq (MNF-I) to General George Casey, Vice Chief of Staff of the Army, in June of 2004. He returned to Germany where he continued as Commanding General of V Corps..
Having commanded the corps for more than 3 years, longer than any previous commander in the unit’s history, Sanchez relinquished command of V Corps in a ceremony at Campbell Barracks in Heidelberg, Germany on September 6, 2006. In deference to Sanchez’ longevity, he relinquished command to General David McKiernan, Commanding General, US Army Europe and Seventh Army, his higher commander, as opposed to a successor.
On November 1, 2006, after having served with distinction in the United States Army for 33 years, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez retired. He now resides in his home state of Texas, where he enjoys caring for his grandaughter.