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U.S. Air Force, Tohoku Town Establish Historic Fire Protection Agreement

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Brieana E. Bolfing
  • 35th FW/PA

U.S. Air Force Col. Michael Richard, 35th Fighter Wing commander, and Tohoku Town Mayor Koji Nagakubo signed a Memorandum of Understanding International (MoUI) at Tohuko Town, Japan, on July 1, 2024. This milestone MoUI marks the first Fire Protection Agreement in 25 years and the inaugural agreement with the Chubu-Kamikita Regional Business Association Fire Department, underscoring a shared commitment to fire protection.

The 35th Civil Engineer Squadron (CES), led by Master Sgt. Aaron Strayhorn, deputy fire chief, and Mr. Hitoshi Mikami, fire department assistant chief of operations, collaborated with local officials over nine months to reach this MoUI. This collaborative effort enhances fire protection and rescue ties with Japan, ensuring enhanced safety and cross-community collaboration.

“It began with our gratitude for their support after last year's incident,” said Strayhorn. “That's when we recognized their critical role and swift response around Lake Ogawara.”

A portion of Lake Ogawara falls under Misawa Air Base's jurisdiction, presenting a unique setting as the Chubu-Kamikita Regional Business Association Fire Department oversees emergency response incidents for the rest of Lake Ogawara.

“We realized the complexities of their jurisdiction during last year's base beach incident,” Chief Master Sgt. Andrew Kehl, 35th CES fire chief, explained. “When we needed assistance, Chubu-Kamikita was quick to respond. It became clear that formalizing our mutual aid agreement was essential.”

The MoUI ensures mutual assistance during emergencies, strengthening both communities' ability to provide rapid and coordinated responses.

“This agreement is crucial beyond our respective jurisdictions,” expressed Strayhorn. “It integrates their department into joint operations, facilitating seamless support whenever and wherever needed.”

The MoUI enables swift responses during fire and rescue incidents, fostering deeper communication and reliable support. By leveraging the strengths and resources of both military and civilian agencies, this partnership ensures the safety and protection of these critical areas, highlighting the importance of coordination and mutual support.

“At its core, this agreement reflects our shared commitment to mutual assistance,” Kehl expressed. “Our partnerships are our greatest strength against adversity, ensuring our missions remain resilient.”