Jason Kalinowski spent his childhood years in the Overbrook and Brookline sections of Pittsburgh. A graduate of Seton Lasalle in Brookline, Kalinowski joined the United States Air Force following graduation in 1992.
“I needed some direction in my life,” commented Kalinowski. “I wanted to be useful, but also have adventure, so I joined the U.S. Air Force to become an avionic technician on F-15 fighter jets.”
For close to 24 years, Kalinowski – literally – traveled the world with the Air Force. From U.S. bases in Virginia, Colorado, and Delaware, to deployments to the UK, Norway, Croatia, Kuwait, and Poland, Kalinowki rose through the ranks, earning his college degree, marrying the love of his life, and becoming the father of two beautiful daughters.
“Following basic training in San Antonia, I was sent to Lowery Air Force Base in Denver for technical school,” stated Kalinowski. “I learned the basics and intermediate electronics and specialized training on the avionics systems of the F-15 Eagle Fighter Jet. It was exactly what I was looking for in my life – challenge, education, and adventure.”
After roughly ten years of duty as an avionics technician and with his promotion to Master Sergeant, Kalinowski took a position in Air Force human resources, where he became responsible for the morale, welfare, and discipline of his assigned unit.
“It was as incredibly rewarding position,” he noted.
It was during his time in this position that Kalinowski began to work closely with the American Red Cross.
He added, “I was the person who received the calls when a troop’s family member was ill, injured, or had passed. I was the one who needed to inform the troop, generate the orders to fly, and guide the person back to the location of their family issue. Those calls all came from the American Red Cross.”
When Kalinowski decided to retire from active duty, he called upon his experience in the Air Force to help him in his new role as an American Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces Manager.
“Throughout my years of service, my wife, Zoe, was a Red Cross volunteer. It made her happy to be a part of the American Red Cross and positively impact our community,” noted Kalinowski. “That, coupled with my own experience in the military working with the Red Cross on emergency communications, made me realize I wanted to be a part of the Red Cross team.”
Kalinowski and his family are today stationed at Panzer Kasern in Stuttgart, Germany, where his primary role is to provide opportunities for the military families on U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart that will enable them to volunteer their time, talents, and experiences for the betterment of themselves and the military community. He also works with the military to deliver emergency communications from family members to soldiers, a task he finds to be very sobering and rewarding.
He stated, “It is a heartwarming feeling when you can have an old job that you loved positively impact your capabilities at your new employment. My position is very fulfilling and often fun.”
Kalinowski is currently deployed to Poland and is responsible for opening a Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces outpost to serve U.S. troops stationed there.
“I am working with the host military organization to establish an office in Poland,” stated Kalinowski. “As the logistics are being worked through, I am meeting with the troops to see how the Red Cross can assist them. Once I have a good idea what the troops need, I will identify supplies, locate them, and transport them to the area.”
Although Kalinowski is stationed halfway around the world, Pittsburgh is never far from his mind.
He concluded, “The Steel City will always be my home. I like to say Pittsburgh is a city of culture, grand views, and sports. When I visit, I always go up to Grandview Avenue where my dad is from. I have seen cities around the world and none of them can boast a view like the one from atop Mount Washington. Go Steelers! Go Pens! Go Buccos!”