Retired New Mexico Air National Guard Brigadier General Judy M. Griego was unanimously confirmed by the state Senate as Secretary of the Department of Veterans’ Services Feb. 6.

The native of Carnuel had been appointed to the position by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on Dec. 27, acting in a secretary-designate capacity pending confirmation by the Senate.

Gov. Lujan Grisham said in an official statement that she is “thrilled that the Senate agreed with me that General Griego has the management experience and leadership skills necessary to lead the Department of Veterans Services. She has a passion for helping the men and women who have served our country. She has a way of connecting with them. I am confident she will do an excellent job leading DVS.”

Secretary Griego had a 37-year military career.

In 1979, she enlisted in the New Mexico Air National Guard. Over the next 12 years, she worked her way through the enlisted ranks—reaching the rank of Master Sergeant. In 1991, she was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant upon graduation from the Academy of Military Science at McGhee-Tyson Air Force Base in Knoxville, Tennessee.

During her military service, Griego earned a Bachelor of Science Degree and a Master of Science Degree from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

Department of Veterans Services Sec. Judy Griego

In 2007, then-Lt. Col Griego deployed to Balad Air Base, Iraq, to serve in key leadership positions in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. In 2011, she became the first New Mexico woman to be promoted into the rank of Brigadier General in the New Mexico National Guard.

Griego credits her growing up in a small community with instilling strong “family-first” values as well as developing close bonds with her neighbors.

“Every family knew each other and we were often referred to as ‘Johnny’s kids’. My dad was a World War II veteran who raised five kids on his own,” Griego said, “So this, combined with growing up in a small community, brought us close. We all watched out for each other and helped each other whenever somebody needed it.”

Griego said rural areas have unique challenges and sees an opportunity to continue to do outreach to all communities, big and small. She said 17 Veteran Services Officers in 14 field offices around the state “are always out in the field talking to veterans and ensuring that they are informed about their benefits and services—and work closely with the VA as well.”
Griego has several top priorities: “My focus initiatives will be on the healthcare of our veterans and their families, transportation for the rural-areas veterans, and homeless veterans. DVS will continue to work towards creating a transportation network to serve the rural parts of our state. We will also continue collaborating with the VA and … service organizations to work towards ending homelessness among veterans. Additionally our veteran population is aging—we also need to anticipate their health needs as they get older.”

When asked what lesson she learned from military service that she’ll apply to her new role as Secretary, Griego said, “I like to observe and gather all the information, and most importantly, solicit input from the parties affected before I make a final decision. While sometimes that may not always be the case due to our chain of command and our mission, I think it’s important. I also take into account the impact that a decision has, or could have, on families.”

Leota Harriman
Leota Harriman

Leota started working for The Independent in 2006, working her way up through the ranks. An employee buyout in 2010 led to her ownership of the newspaper. Leota has served on the board of the N.M. Press Association, and is currently its First Vice President. She is passionate about health and wellness, especially mental health, and loves making art. She can be reached at news.ind.editor@gmail.com.