Colonel Karen Lee Jennings was born in Monterey, California on 31 October 1958 while her parents Colonel Francis and Marjory Lee were stationed at Fort Ord, CA. She graduated from Balboa High School in the Panama Canal Zone in 1976. She entered the University of Rhode Island in 1976 where she was a member of the Alpha Delta Pi Sorority. She was in the Army ROTC program for four years, served in the Rhode Island National Guard, and graduated as a Distinguished Military Graduate.
She followed in the footsteps of her father, Colonel Francis Lee, ‘57 and grandfather, Captain Francis G. Lee, ‘30 who also graduated from the University of Rhode Island and who were also commissioned as Second Lieutenants. She earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Communications in 1980 and was commissioned in the Regular Army as a Second Lieutenant in the Quartermaster Corps.
Colonel Jennings served for over thirty-one years in the U.S. Army and the U.S. Army reserve in various command and staff positions. She entered active duty in June 1980. After her initial training and Airborne School, her initial assignment was as a Platoon Leader in the 24th Supply and Service Company in Giessen, Germany. She ran the Supply Warehouse, Self Service Supply Center, Central Issue Facility, Fire Control Point and three prepositioned stock points. In 1982 she joined the 3rd Support Command Staff as the Maintenance Officer, followed by the Quartermaster Advanced Course.
The next phase of her career was to the 1st Forward Support Battalion, 9th Infantry Division at Fort Lewis, Washington where she made tremendous impacts to the soldiers of her unit as the Battalion S-1 and later as the Commander of the Headquarters and Supply Company. She moved to the 9th Division Support Command in 1988 where she served as the Training Officer, Operations Officer and the DISCOM S-3. She later moved to the Readiness Group at Fort Lewis and assisted with deploying Reserve Soldiers during Operation Desert Storm. She left her active duty career, temporarily in 1992, and entered the U.S. Army Reserve.
Colonel Jennings served as the Assistant Logistics Officer in the 124th Regional Support Command which was later named the 70th Regional Readiness Command in Seattle, Washington. She was selected as the Commandant of the Headquarters, 70th RRC, and then assumed command of the 385th Transportation Battalion (Terminal) in Tacoma, Washington. She was selected to attend the Resident U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania where she graduated in the class of 2001.
Colonel Jennings served an active duty assignment at the G3 Operations, the Pentagon in July 2001 and was the Operations Officer for the Military Support to Civilian Authorities Office, Director of Military Support responding to the requests by civil agencies incurred by the 9/11 attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center. In 2002, she became an Action Officer for Special Events which took her to Salt Lake City for the Olympics where she served as the DOMS representative in the Joint Operations Center.
She was selected for promotion to Colonel and Brigade Command, which took her to the 55th Transportation Material Management Center which was later transformed into the 55th Sustainment Brigade under the Army’s Logistics Transformation initiative in 2005. Her Command was one of three of the first Reserve Sustainment Brigades to transform, leading the way for the Reserves.
In 2006 Colonel Jennings served as the Deputy Commander, 316th Sustainment Command, Expeditionary (ESG), the first ESG to be stood up and deploy in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OEF 07-09). The unit was the Command and Control Headquarters for Six Brigade Headquarters located throughout the county of Iraq with the mission of providing logistics support throughout the country.
After redeploying, Colonel Jennings resumed her duties as a Director in the Logistics Automation Office in the Army G4 at the Pentagon, followed by her final assignment as the Operations Support Director at the Defense Logistics Agency.
Colonel Jennings retired on 30 April 2011 after spending her last five years on active duty. Her awards include: Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal, Joint Service Commendation Medal (2 awards), Meritorious Service Medal (8 awards), Army Commendation Medal (2 awards), National Defense Service Medal with Bronze Star, Global war on Terrorism Service Medal, and the Iraq Campaign Medal with Campaign Star. She also received the Quartermaster Distinguished Member of the Regiment Award, the Order of Saint Martin Medallion from the Quartermaster Corps and the General Brehon B. Somervell Medal for making significant contributions to the Army from the Army Logistics Corps.
Colonel Jennings is a member of the URI Alumni Association and has been very active with the Washington, DC Alumni Chapter. Since 2005, she has been a volunteer at her church for “Operation Kindness” where she and her family assist in packing care packages for deployed service members. She has also volunteered at the Arlington Food assistance Center with the National Defense Transportation Association over the last 12 years. Col Jennings began a 501 (C) 3 Organization called KEC-A Village of Hope to support a school in Uganda, with the goal to increase literacy and build a new modern school in a rural village outside of Fort Portal, Uganda, all because of an acquaintance she made with one of the Ugandan Security Guards during her tour in Iraq.
Colonel Jennings is a leader of the highest caliber and a role model for all women in the military. She tackled the tough staff and command assignments throughout her career. She has served her community, the University of Rhode Island, and our country as a distinguished leader in “The One Army Concept” with dedication and professionalism.
Col Jennings is married to COL Seaman (USAF and SES, Retired) and has two children, Ryan and Tara Jennings.