Col. Karen Rutka was born and raised in Fairbanks, Alaska. She is a graduate of the University of Alaska, Fairbanks with a bachelor's in criminal justice and a Master of Arts in Business Management and Leadership from Webster University.
Rutka was commissioned as an Air Defense officer in May 1998. Her previous assignments include Platoon Leader and Tactical Director for 1-43 Air Defense Artillery BN, Executive Officer and Assistant S-3 for 2-43 Air Defense Artillery Battalion, Battery Commander in 1-7 Air Defense Artillery Battalion, Assistant Commandant at the Unites States Army Sergeants Major Academy, Captains Career Course Instructor, Deputy Chief of Operations for 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command, Operations Officer for the 3-4 Air Defense Artillery Regiment (Airborne), Operations Officer and Deputy Commander for the 108th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, Interoperability Branch Chief for the Joint Integrated Air and Missile Defense Organization, Battalion Commander for 4-5 Air Defense Artillery Battalion, Air Defense Organizer and Integrator at the U.S. Forces Command and the Operations Officer for U.S. Army Recruiting Command. She has served overseas and deployed in numerous capacities in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom and Spartan Shield.
Rutka’s military education includes the Air Defense Officer Basic and Advance courses, Combined Arms and Services Staff school, and the Command and General Staff college and the Army War College. She is also a graduate of Airborne school, the Total Army Instructor Training course, the Joint Firepower Course, the Multi-TDL Advanced Joint Interoperability course and the Space Operations course.
Rutka’s awards, decorations and badges include the Bronze Star (1-OLC), Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal (9-OLC), Army Commendation Medal (3-OLC), Army Achievement Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary and Service Medals, Korean defense Service Medal, Navy Presidential Unit Award, Joint Staff Badge, Army Staff Badge, Combat Action Badge, Army Space Badge, Parachutist Badge and the Recruiting Badge.