Air Force Featured Stories

Iceman born abroad

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Cassie Whitman
  • 354th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
(This feature is part of the "Through Airmen's Eyes" series on AF.mil. These stories focus on a single Airman, highlighting their Air Force story.)

Driving in the dead of night, 5-year-old Ivan Alandzak remembers seeing soldiers laying in ditches, random check points and tanks everywhere.

His dad would go away at night to hide so the soldiers wouldn’t capture him and threaten his family. People were being forced out of their houses, and Alandzak knew something was wrong, but didn’t really know why.

Alandzak, now a technical sergeant with the 354th Civil Engineer Squadron, escaped his home in Bosnia with his family to cross the border into Germany during the Bosnian War. They had family there and knew they would be safe.

“Once we got to Germany, my parents began the process to get our Visas,” Alandzak said, a water and fuels system maintenance technician. “I was 14 when we finally moved to the U.S.”

Because Bosnian was his first language, and he lived in Germany for 10 years, Alandzak had to learn English as his third language when he entered the U.S.

“It was challenging,” he said. “I felt like I had to start over; I was in a new country, a new school system, everything was new.”

Despite watching events unfold in Bosnia, Alandzak was still attracted to the military. He said he has fond memories of soldiers talking with him and playing with him when he was younger, and it’s something that stuck with him.

“I also love planes,” Alandzak said. “Everything from the way they sound to the thunderous feeling you get when they take off is amazing. I picked my job because the recruiter said I’d get to be around planes; he didn’t lie.”

As soon as Alandzak graduated high school, he joined the Air Force. The Air Force provided his family with the opportunity to travel all over the world.

“No other career would give me the opportunity to be stationed in Germany and have my son be born there,” Alandzak said. “I was born in Europe and lived there, so it’s awesome that my son was born there.”

Alandzak had a different journey to enter the Air Force than those who are already citizens.

“Because I didn’t have my citizenship yet, I had no security clearance,” Alandzak said. “This prevented me from fully completing my mission at my first duty station. But when I finally had that piece of paper in my hand, I was so happy.”

Since arriving at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, Alandzak has proven himself to be a valuable member of the (Icemen) team.

“His biggest contribution has been instilling good order and discipline in his Airmen and staying on top of all of their issues whether that be duty related or personal,” said Sylvin Carter, the 354th CES alarm shop foreman. “This ensures when Airmen are on a job site, they can concentrate on the task at-hand instead of worrying about other issues.”

Not many people can say they would join the military after living through, and escaping a war. Alandzak has shown his dedication to his new country from the moment he arrived.

“Nothing I have here can be taken away from me,” Alandzak said. “I don’t have to worry that someone will come force me from my house or take away what’s mine; I have a sense of security in all aspects of my life.”