HATTIESBURG - KaRensa
Polk signed up for the Army ROTC at The University of Southern Mississippi
with the promise of joining an "Army of One."
Contrary to the popular recruiting slogan, Polk actually
joined a family of many.
Commissioned as a second lieutenant Monday, Polk,
22, became the fourth sibling in her family to enlist in the United
States Army. With her accomplishment, the first female ROTC commander
at Southern Miss this century fulfilled an important goal.
"I've wanted to be a soldier for a long time,
just like my brothers and sister," said Polk, a Wayne County
High School product who got her start in the JROTC program there.
"This is a dream come true for me."
After graduation, Polk, a software engineering major,
will spend several months at Fort Lee in Virginia, where she will
undergo initial officer basic training. After that, she will be
stationed at Fort Campbell in Kentucky.
While serving as company commander at Southern Miss,
Polk was responsible for the training, welfare, accountability and
discipline of 87 cadets. She also supervised an executive officer,
first sergeant, training sergeant, supply sergeant and two platoon
While in college, Polk served as the president of
Scabbard and Blade, the ROTC's honor society. She was the recipient
of the American Legion Military Excellence Award and was recognized
for her academic achievement by the Daughters of the American Colonists.
Lt. Col. Kevin Dougherty, a professor of military
science at Southern Miss who taught Polk, described her as "the
"She is always organized, motivated, selfless,
dependable and on task," Dougherty said. "On top of all
that, she is about as pleasant and positive as they come. There
are a lot of people who get things done and a lot who are nice to
be around, but few who are both. KaRensa is one of those few."
Polk said she first began considering the Army as
a career after her older sister, now a captain, joined the ROTC.
"She's very smart, a valedictorian, but not very athletic,"
Polk said. "So I figured if she could handle the physical aspect
of basic training, I could, too." Polk also has two brothers
in the Army - one a staff sergeant and the other a specialist.
She fell in love with military life while in the JROTC,
she said, and after graduating from Wayne County High School, she
continued her passion at Southern Miss, where she earned a four-year
"I think I missed only one day (of ROTC) since
being here. It's my home away from home," she said with pride.
One of the things Polk liked best about ROTC, she
said, was the camaraderie, even if it was sometimes forced.
"When you have to live in the woods with people,
it helps you learn how to work around a lot of people, different
kinds of people. Sometimes you're in a group of 100 or more, and
everyone's got to work together to achieve a mission," she
Another aspect that appealed to Polk was the possibility
of travel. "I want to move around (and visit) Egypt, Germany,
Hawaii, Alaska, Japan."
Her high school JROTC instructor, Sgt. Maj. Richard
Scott, said Polk was "one of those types of students you just
know is destined for something good."
"She had a good personality; she was very assertive
and aggressive in trying to accomplish her goals," he said.
"She was involved with the color guard, rifle team, and drill
team. The list goes on and on. She's one of those young folks you
want to clone and have around you," Scott said.