Karen Semeraro went to Western Kentucky on an ROTC scholarship and was commissioned into the Army as a 2nd Lieutenant where she began her 30-year career. While at WKU she became a “pioneer in airborne” when she was one of the first 50 women accepted into the air assault program at Fort Benning and Fort Campbell.
Semeraro was based at Fort Hood from 1980-88 before she became a recruiter in Louisville and changed to reserve status.
Semeraro participated in an exchange program between Army Reserve and Active Duty Army and was one of 20 reservists selected to attend resident War College.
When 9/11 happened in 2001, everything changed. She commanded more troop mobilization training at Fort Hood and was deployed four times — Desert Storm, Desert Shield, Afghanistan and Iraq.
After 9/11 she was a part of the development of a startup mobilization training compound for reserve units off base as an extension of the base at Fort Hood, she said.
Semeraro was charged with mobilization of enlisted soldiers and community mobilization of reserve soldiers.
“We housed, fed and trained reserves for two months before deployment,” she said. “We trained soldiers to be responsible for military equipment.”
As more reserves were trained, a post exchange, clinic and a church were added to the compound for a better quality of life.
Semeraro mobilized more than 15,000 soldiers at Fort Hood and welcomed them back with a ceremony then processed them to go home.
“That was my biggest honor, the Fort Hood mobilization command,” Semeraro said.
Her biggest horror was in November 2009, when U.S. Army Medical Corps psychiatrist Nidal Malik Hasan fatally shot 13 people and wounded 32 others in the Fort Hood mass shooting, in the unit she commanded for so many years.
In Iraq, Semeraro was based in Takrit in support services for the 4th Infantry division, Task Force Ironhorse. She was charged with personnel operations for 25,000 soldiers — personnel accounts, theater operations and more.
“We had to live out of tents under the buildup,” she said. “We lived rough for six months — no showers, no phone calls home for about four months, until we got help with the quality of life.”
During her Afghanistan tour in Kandahar, she was the senior personnel officer for the joint command multinational force including the Marines, England, Denmark and Canada. She dealt with casualty reports, personnel accounts and daily operations.
“We set up personnel policies for the theater, delivered mail throughout the areas and held on-flight departure ceremonies for those killed in action,” she said.
During her career, Semeraro was awarded two Bronze Stars, the Legion of Honor, five Meritorious Service Medals and five Army Commendation Medals, and was a pioneer for women in the military.