BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan --
According to World Health Organization, Afghanistan has the fourth highest malaria burden and accounts for 4% of confirmed cases in the WHO Eastern Mediterranean (EMRO) region. More than 75% of Afghans live in areas at risk of malaria transmission.
There are 63 districts at high risk and 135 districts at medium risk of malaria. Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, which is located in eastern Afghanistan, has the highest level malaria burden.
It is experts like Staff Sgt. Nikola Bozic, 455th Expeditionary Medical Group public health technician, who help protect all personnel on base from a vast array of illness and disease by minimizing health risks within our community.
“My job here is to support the joint mission in regards to doing preventative health for the entire population on BAF,” said Bozic. “I am the only U.S. Air Force public health representative for the area of responsibility, but I am very thankful to have the Army Preventative Medicine here to assist me, as well as the Army Veterinarians.”
Bozic stated that every day is different and some days are a lot busier than others.
“You never know what’s coming your way each day,” said Bozic. I stay extremely busy. Depending on what I find during inspections, my days can be great or they can be very long trying to resolve any discrepancies I find.”
As a public health technician, he are responsible for educating Airmen on safety procedures and food inspection as well as investigating hazardous materials and sanitary standards. They perform public health activities ensuring that Airmen remain healthy.
“It is my job is to prevent disease in the population,” said Bozic. “I am here to prevent the actual illnesses and anything that can affect the health of our population. The way I do that is mostly through education and reaching out to the community. Once the member is educated and is provided that medical intelligence about the different diseases and illnesses that are in the environment, they can use that information we provide to prevent themselves from getting whatever that threat may be.”
According to Maj. Nancy Lester, Craig Joint Theater Hospital public health officer, Bozic and the role he fills is critical to success of the mission of the hospital as well as the entire AOR.
“Due to his fluency in Serbo-Croatian language, Bozic has easily forged authentic and highly productive work relationships with most of the Balkan country contractors ensuring optimal food safety and sanitation,” said Lester. “Bozic performs monthly food and public facility inspections. He works with facility managers and their frontline staff to ensure we uphold local, Air Force, and Department of Defense standards for total force health.”
In addition to inspecting the dining facilities, Bozic also inspects the gyms, laundry facilities, and incinerators.
Inspections can result in identifying discrepancies that may pose possible health threats and those are not easy to relay to facility workers with language and cultural differences.
“With Bozic's background and language skills, he easily communicates what the discrepancy is and how to address it while maintaining vital work relationships,” said Lester. “With the size and population of this installation, often times, Bozic must consult and work with Army Veterinary Staff and Army Preventive Medicine to ensure that as a joint service health team (Task Force Medical - Afghanistan), we are safeguarding the total populace of BAF from preventable injuries and illness.”
Hailing from San Antonio, TX., Bozic is originally from Bosnia and has been in the Air Force for five years.
“After finishing my first year in college in Bosnia, my mom asked me to come visit her,” said Bozic. “Once I got to Texas, I fell in love with the U.S. I loved the people and all the opportunities that were afforded to me. Because of that, I joined the world’s greatest Air Force.”
Currently serving on his first deployment, Bozic said he has enjoyed it so far.
“I was excited when I found out I was deploying here.” said Bozic. “I wanted this deployment for a long time because it gives me an opportunity to test myself. You think you know your job home station, but when you deploy, that’s when you test yourself and find out if you really know your job.”
Bozic said he came into the Air Force open general, but thanks the person who picked public health for him because he loves it.
“It’s definitely the right job for me.,” said Bozic. “I absolutely love my job. It’s amazing going out into the community, building that relationship with people. The connection you build with the manager and workers is amazing.
‘Every part about this deployment has been great. It has been a great learning experience. Using all the knowledge I have learned and being able to apply it and help out the local community here and the Bosnian unit has been amazing.”