When Katie Kolowich graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in humanities she thought that she would end up working at the Smithsonian or another museum.
But once Kolowich and her husband, Adam, moved to Washington, D.C., where he had accepted a position at the Defense Intelligence Agency, she too received an opportunity to work for the DIA. It didn't take long for a woman who was born and raised in American Fork to rise through the ranks.
Kolowich, 29, left the DIA in June after working there since 2004, but she was recently honored by receiving the Defense Intelligence Director's Award and the Director's Award for Excellence, the agency's two highest awards, which are given to only a few employees annually. The awards came for Kolowich's service as the deputy director in the Center for International Engagement and for coordinating initiatives related to international engagement and global outreach.
"Specifically, I was awarded this medal for my work with the countries bordering the Black Sea and Caspian Sea," Kolowich said. "During my time at DIA, we were able to have three symposiums with the intelligence directors of these countries. These meetings were the first of their kind for the intelligence community and each country discussed aspects of regional security and counter-terrorism."
The first of these meetings was held in Washington, in 2006, with follow-up meetings in Constanta, Romania, in 2007 and Batumi, Republic of Georgia, in 2008. Kolowich said the main goal for these meetings is to get these countries into open dialog even though relationships between some the countries are not in the greatest shape.
"I never thought when I graduated from American Fork High School in 1997 that I would be sitting in meetings with intelligence directors from the U.S. and other foreign countries 10 years later," Kolowich said.
Her job in preparing these conferences encompassed everything from contacting the foreign agencies to briefing international delegations and even making sure feuding countries were not sitting together or even sitting in view of each other.
The success of these symposiums led the United States to start coordinating a similar series of meetings with intelligence agencies in South America.
"It was a massive amount of work, but when you witness two countries starting to communicate and build relationships who have been fighting for years, you realize that every late night you spent in preparation was absolutely worth it," Kolowich said.
Katie's husband returned less than a year ago from a one-year deployment in Iraq as part of his service in the Utah National Guard, and the couple recently moved back to Utah, where Adam just started his first year of law school at the University of Utah.
Kolowich's colleagues at the DIA were sad to see her go.
"Her talent and accomplishments did not go unnoticed," DIA director of the Center for International Engagement Larry Hiponia said. "She quickly rose through the ranks from a junior staff assistant and was soon promoted to deputy director. In this position, Katie thrived as my deputy, taking on more responsibility and executing numerous high-level international engagement events that directly impacted national security."The Kolowiches are happy to be back home spending time with and living close to family. Kolowich said that after her husband finishes law school, they will most likely end up back in Washington, but as far as her future with the DIA or any other agencies, she is keeping her options open.