Passing On Knowledge: F-35 Emergency Response Symposium

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Koby Mitchell
  • 35th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

An aircraft crash can result in the waste of millions of dollars, loss of life and limb, and potential environmental damage if not dealt with correctly. The first responders on the scene are critical to establishing a standard and communicating how to deal with the accident. But how do they learn that standard before an accident occurs?

Last week, Misawa Air Base and Misawa City members attended an F-35 Emergency Response Symposium. During the event, subject matter experts from Hill Air Force Base briefed on the proper procedures and responses in the event of an F-35 crash, ensuring that everyone is on the same page if an accident were to occur.

At approximately 6:15 p.m. Oct. 19, 2022, an F-35A Lightning II from the 388th Fighter Wing crashed at the north end of the runway at Hill Air Force Base, Utah. The response was immediate, and while the crash resulted in no serious injuries or loss of life, the team at the 388th learned many lessons.

In the years following the F-35 accident, Hill Air Force Base Fire Department hosted multiple conferences detailing their response to the F-35 crash and, more importantly, how they could improve if such a situation arose again. U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sergeant Andrew Kehl, 35th Civil Engineer Squadron fire chief, attended one such briefing and invited the subject matter experts from Hill Air Force Base to Misawa Air Base so they could impart some of their wisdom to his team.

“The Misawa fire chief reached out to us,” said Jeff Herriott, 775th Civil Engineer Squadron deputy fire chief. “He had attended a conference presentation last year at Hill Air Force Base and felt Misawa had a knowledge gap. He wanted to utilize Hill’s experience to communicate some of that knowledge.”

While no U.S Air Force F-35s are assigned at Misawa Air Base, the Japan Air Self-Defense Force employs the F-35A model. It is vital that in the unfortunate case that an accident occurs, the entire base, consisting of joint, bilateral partners is prepared to respond and minimize damage. Collaboration between U.S. Military and JASDF members is critical, as an accident can occur in a location where the host nation will respond first.

“There are many partners that would play a role in mitigating an F-35 mishap here,” said Master Sgt. Aaron Strayhorn, 35th Civil Engineer Squadron deputy fire chief. “It won’t just be the base responding to an accident. We have mutual aid agreements with JASDF and the Misawa City Fire Department, so we all must meet and listen to the chiefs from Hill AFB to let them educate us and bring us together so that we will be ready if an accident occurs.”

Such collaboration ensures the pooling of resources and expertise, effectively maximizing interoperability of the capabilities of all involved agencies. By fostering a culture of cooperation and shared learning, Misawa Air Base and its partners are better equipped to respond swiftly and effectively to any potential accident, enhancing the safety and security of all personnel and assets in the Northern Japan region.


“We have F-16s, and our JASDF partners have F-35s, so we want to make sure that all the agencies on the base are holistically prepared to work together,” said Strayhorn. “There was no better way to do that than to reach out to those at Hill Air Force Base who had experienced a major mishap with the F-35 and learn from that.”

The emergency response teams at Hill Air Force Base have thoroughly reviewed their response to the prior accident multiple times. By utilizing their insights, the Department of Defense is able to minimize any loss of life and equipment across the board in the event of a crash.

“Taking a more proactive approach to what we’re doing, obviously in our case sharing information on our experience,” said Mike Burruss, 775th Civil Engineer Squadron assistant chief of operations, “and talking about what we did well, and what we need to improve on, will pay dividends when it comes to future on-the-scene response.”

Conferences and meetings such as the F-35 Emergency Response Symposium allow readiness and safety to be prioritized by all stakeholders. Misawa’s ability to project airpower, is reliant on the innovation and interoperability of our allies and partners. Learning best practices during emergency situations in one way we stand alongside our JASDF counterparts to ensure we accomplish our mission; to deter adversaries and defend Japan and U.S. interests in the Indo-Pacific region.