By Rachel Kersey, 502d Air Base Wing Public Affairs
/ Published January 08, 2021
Air Force Staff Sgt. Nikola Bozic (left) visits Pula, Croatia, with a Croatian Area Studies Immersion group May 2019. Bozic participated in this opportunity as a Language Enabled Airman Program scholar to sharpen his Croatian language skills and learn more about the history of the area. (Courtesy photo)
JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO, Texas – Hundreds of Airmen across Joint Base San Antonio are currently enrolled in the Language Enabled Airman Program.
The program, known as LEAP, has trained enlisted Airmen and officers since 2009 through language courses in order to provide scholars with a working level of foreign language proficiency.
Tech. Sgt. Nikola Bozic, Capt. Daniel Bergstresser and Capt. Victoria Villa are three of the many participants at JBSA who are honing their skills through this career-spanning program, which opens new doors of opportunity.
Bozic is the force help management chief and NCO in charge of Public Health at JBSA-Randolph. He is studying Serbo-Croatian with LEAP.
“I would love to work as a defense attaché. That would be my biggest dream,” he said. “In any country that speaks the Serbo-Croatian language, I would love to be an asset to the ambassador in the region and be able to help out the United States diplomatic mission. Or I’d like to be an international health specialist. I just want to help.”
In addition to being an instructor pilot, Bergstresser is the 12th Operations Group executive officer at JBSA-Randolph. He is studying Japanese through LEAP and has been doing so for almost 10 years.
“My primary goal is to become a foreign area officer and utilize my Japanese language skills to continue strengthening the bond and alliance between the U.S. and Japan,” he said. “There are other opportunities like the Military Personnel Exchange Program that would allow me to work directly with the Japanese Self-Defense Air Force. I am also looking at applying to the Mansfield Fellowship Program, which would allow me to spend one year working with and learning from Japanese government officials.”
Villa is the logistics readiness officer functional area manager at JBSA-Lackland and Kelly Annex. She is studying Farsi as a LEAP scholar.
“Any opportunity to use the language while in the military would be great. I have always thought it would be nice to teach in a school with a larger Persian population to serve as a resource for those families,” she said. “I thoroughly enjoyed learning Farsi and about the Iranian culture [in college], so I applied for LEAP to continue my studies on active duty.”
One of the prerequisites for joining the program is having some level of background in the language. Bozic emigrated from Bosnia and is a native speaker, but he joined LEAP because he wanted to learn to speak his original language in professional contexts. Bergstresser studied Japanese at the Air Force Academy.
“I wanted a way to continue studying and improving my knowledge of the Japanese language and culture, and LEAP was a great way to do that,” Bergstresser said. “Not only does LEAP provide structured, online classes with a native-speaking teacher, called eMentor, it also provides opportunities to spend four weeks attending a language school in-country.”
These month-long courses are called Language Intensive Training Events. Students who attend traditional LITEs get to stay with a host family and be thoroughly immersed in the culture they are studying.
“I definitely have learned a lot from LEAP and I’ve sharpened my skills in my language,” Bozic said. “It’s very in-depth, very hands on. And it has broadened my horizons concerning the mission of the Air Force.”
The Air Force Culture and Language Center will identify and select approximately 400 new LEAP scholars per year. Airmen and Space Professionals with a background in a foreign language listed on the Air Force Strategic Languages List may apply. The list of languages is available from any installation’s education office.
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