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Recruiter enlists same Airman twice

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Chelsea E. FitzPatrick
  • 127th Wing Public Affairs

     U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Eric Dalen can thank his recruiter for a lot. In 2019, while a student at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Dalen was pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Nursing while taking Air Force Reserve Officer Training Courses, but didn’t feel like he was on the right path.
     “I’d switched my major from nursing to psychology, then realized all I cared about was the military side,” Dalen said. “As much fun as college is, I just really wanted to be in the service.”
     After reaching out to the active duty Air Force recruiting station near his hometown in Rochester Hills, he was connected with recruiter Tech. Sgt. Kataryna Ostrowski who supported him over a three-month process. While the enlistments typically do not take three months, Dalen had to get in shape: he lost 50 pounds and kept in contact with Ostrowski on a weekly basis.
     “She would check in, ask how it’s going and I texted her every Friday with updates,” Dalen said.
     When Dalen and Ostrowski’s paths crossed, he expressed his need for a change in what he had been doing. Ostrowski said Dalen’s enlistment helped launch his Air Force career and lead him to education benefits for the future.
     “I felt like we could get him, ‘a breather,’ and get him [education] resources to use, so even if he did a four-year active-duty contract and got out, he’d still have the $80,000 G.I. Bill to use,” Ostrowski said.
      By June 2019, Dalen shipped out to basic military training and afterwards was ultimately stationed at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana as a B-52 Stratofortress aircraft maintainer.
      Ostrowski, also a Michigan native, worked in civil engineer fields including water fuel systems and dorm management for approximately 10 years before becoming an active duty Air Force recruiter stationed at the Clinton Township office. In 2020 she received orders that would have sent her to to Texas without her partner, separating her family. She did what she knew would keep her loved ones together and joined the Air National Guard.
     “I thought, ‘I’m not going to be a single mom with three kids in Lubbock, Texas,’” Ostrowski said. “Family is my number one.”
      Meanwhile, Dalen deployed to the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia between October 2021 and April 2022, rounding out his last year of enlistment. Like Ostrowski, he knew when his contract ended he wanted to go home to Michigan to be close to his family.
     “You just miss a lot, like my brother had a kid during the pandemic and I’d seen her only twice from afar in the beginning of her life,” Dalen said. “I wasn’t able to really see her until she was about two.”
      A story of the same recruiter and recruit duo enlisting together twice within four years may be an adage only the National Guard can provide. Both chose stability for their family as the driving force in their decision to transition from active Air Force to the ANG, the second factor was flexibility in career path.
      Thus, fate brought Dalen and Ostrowski together again last October when Dalen signed another contract, this time enlisting as a firefighter with the 127th Civil Engineer Squadron. Well, maybe fate and social media. Dalen had stayed connected to Ostrowski on Instagram and saw that she had become an ANG recruiter, prompting him to reach out the second time.
      Ostrowski says social media is an important tool for recruiting because it extends the reach beyond what they can do in person at a high school.
      “I could go to a school and maybe they’re not interested because they’re eating lunch and the military isn’t something they’ve given much thought to,” Ostrowski said. “Social media is going to gain more interest and you have to be purposeful when you click on something.”
      Now that Dalen is home in Michigan awaiting his firefighting training course, he says plans to go back to school to finish his degree full time.
     “Now that I have had three years of school with the school that I have from Air Force, I think I’ll try pushing it a little bit further, and go for physician’s assistant or something like that,” Dalen said. “I figure I have the tuition benefits, I might as well make the most of it.”
Michigan Guardsmen pursuing higher education programs can qualify for different levels of tuition assistance benefits, with a bachelor’s degree eligible for up to $14,400. Last year, Governor Gretchen Whitmer expanded tuition benefits when she signed, “Public Act 33 of 2023,” into law, granting tuition benefits for eligible spouses and dependents of National Guard members.
     Ostrowski enjoyed getting to work with Dalen twice, and says she she enjoys watching Airmen grow within the organization.
“I want to hear when you go to basic training, if you got an award, I want to celebrate all those successes,” Ostrowski said. “That’s another thing that made it so exciting to work with Eric again, because it’s another milestone in his career and it’s special to be a part of that.”
     Those interested in joining the Michigan Air National Guard at the 127th Wing can reach out to (586) 239-5511 or go to