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LEAP Scholar Connects Cultural Understanding to Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency Mission

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  • By Mikala McCurry, AFCLC Outreach Team

Serbian Croatian Language Enabled Airman Program Scholar Tech. Sgt. Nikola Bozic recently had the opportunity to honor and give back to the community that has given so much to him while supporting the mission of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency in Bosnia.

Bozic lived in Bosnia for more than 20 years before joining the United States Air Force and was finally able to return home as part of a team helping DPAA Europe to potentially locate missing service members from World War II throughout Bosnia and Serbia. 

“This Language Intensive Training Event was a great opportunity for me to utilize the full extent of my language and cultural skills from the region. One of my goals is to use my language skills to help DOD with missions in regions where Serbo-Croatian is spoken. I ambitiously accepted the request for support because I wanted to challenge myself while being in a position to support DPAA with no previous experience in this type of work,” Bozic said.

During this advanced LITE, Bozic provided linguistic support on a team responsible for conducting research through archives and other documents to look for integral clues that could lead to the location of missing service members. He also provided translation support between DPAA and Bosnian leadership. 

“My language acquisition/sustainment and regional and cultural knowledge were crucial to achieving the mission objective of the DPAA Investigation team. Before starting my TDY, I was already looking over documents and translating them to English for the DPAA team leader,” Bozic said. 

One of the biggest challenges Bozic faced throughout the operation was navigating the bureaucracy to access the research and documents needed to complete the mission.

“To get access to certain archival documents and areas, there was a lot of bureaucracy we had to overcome. We had to work with many different organizations and their leadership teams to complete the proper protocols and procedures to get access to the documents and research we needed,” Bozic said. “Overall, it put into perspective how things are done in different places and how much more preparation and flexibility are required to accomplish our missions.”

Although Bozic and his team faced challenges throughout the mission, the rewards from the experience made each challenge worthwhile.

“Finding so much crucial information from those archival documents and our research to potentially help us find missing Airmen was very beneficial. We even found information to help another DPAA mission in another country,” Bozic said. “Learning more in-depth history about the region from eye-witnesses and decades-old documents was eye-opening as well. I lived in Bosnia for 20 years and never had the opportunity to do the type of research I’ve done with DPAA. This experience gave so much more meaning to my cultural understanding, and I felt like my presence there greatly impacted the mission.”

In addition to helping DPAA achieve its mission, Bozic also enjoyed re-immersing himself in the culture he grew up in. 

“We lived in the community where the locals were and interacted with them daily,” Bozic said. “We ate the local food and shopped at the local stores, so it was a great experience for myself and the team I was working with. Having the cultural understanding from living there for 20 years also helped me easily connect with and understand the local people.”

For Bozic, this experience was one of the most fulfilling opportunities in his Air Force career, and he looks forward to using his culture and language skills to impact more DPAA missions in the future.
“I was honored to be part of a mission for an organization that makes such a huge impact. Although their line of work is difficult, DPAA’s work is essential to closing historical gaps and providing closure to families,” Bozic said.

The mission of DPAA is to provide the fullest possible accounting for our missing personnel to their families and the nation. For more information, visit

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