Richard E. Cavazos earned his commission as a distinguished graduate from the ROTC program at Texas Technological University in 1951. During the Korean War, as a member of the 65th Infantry, Cavazos won the Distinguished Service Cross for his heroic actions during an attack on Hill 142. Later, he attended the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, the British Staff College and the Armed Forces Staff College.

In 1967, Cavazos commanded 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry, in Vietnam. His valiant leadership of that unit in the attack at Loc Ninh earned him a second Distinguished Service Cross. After Vietnam, Cavazos served as commander, 2nd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, and commander, 9th Infantry Division. In 1980, he became the innovative commander of III Corps. In 1982, Cavazos assumed command of the U.S. Army Forces Command and earned his fourth star, making him the first Hispanic four-star general in the Army. His early support for the National Training Center and his involvement in the development of the Battle Command Training Program enormously influenced and advanced the Army's warfighting capabilities.