Transferring and Translating: Munitions Airmen Break Down Barriers

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Matthew Kakaris
  • 35th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Airmen from the 35th Maintenance Squadron Munitions Flight partnered with their Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) 3rd Air Wing counterparts to begin the first-ever demilitarization (demil) process for JASDF F-35 Lightning II system components at Misawa AB, during April of 2021.

The F-35 program contract dictates that once an asset is removed from a fifth generation fighter aircraft it becomes U.S. property again. This means partner-nations like Japan are required to work with U.S. personnel to facilitate the F-35 demil process.

The munitions flight is well versed in the demil process for the U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon. They employed that expertise alongside JASDF personnel to reduce their stockpile of previously removed F-35 components that reached the end of their lifecycle.

“It’s pretty much the same process that we’re used to. The only difference is the specific items that we need to prepare,” said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Justin Gibson, 35th MXS Munitions Flight senior munitions inspector. “If we can set a precedent for how they do this in other parts of the world that would be cool too.”

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Ayaka Lopez, 35th MXS Munitions Flight munitions operations supervisor, who is half Japanese, acted as a coordinator and translator between the munitions flight and the JASDF team.

“My mom always pushed me to learn more of a strategic level of Japanese because she knew it would be good for my Air Force career, and she was right,” said Lopez. “My biggest struggle was trying to translate Air Force technical verbiage. I’m fluent in day-to-day Japanese, but it’s not every day that you talk about F-35s.”

Her language skills paid off, helping to build trust and efficient cooperation during the process.

 “They were very happy to know we had someone on our team that could speak Japanese,” said Lopez. “One of the JASDF team members said it was the happiest news that has happened to him all year.”

The partnership between the U.S. Air Force and Japan Air Self-Defense Force enables us to be stronger together and bolsters the stability of the Indo-Pacific Region.