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Reserve citizen Airmen keep Hanscom moving forward

Col. Mark Wilson and Master Sgt. Teresa Baker-Opland, Individual Mobilization Augmentees to the 66th Air Base Group commander and Inspector General Office superintendent, pose for a photo on the flight line at Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., May 19. Both reserve citizen Airmen were activated to serve on Hanscom’s COVID-19 task force in March of this year. (U.S. Air Force photo by Todd Maki)

Col. Mark Wilson and Master Sgt. Teresa Baker-Opland, Individual Mobilization Augmentees to the 66th Air Base Group commander and Inspector General Office superintendent, pose for a photo on the flight line at Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., May 19. Both reserve citizen Airmen were activated to serve on Hanscom’s COVID-19 task force in March of this year. (U.S. Air Force photo by Todd Maki)

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. – Members of a unique component of the U.S. Air Force Reserve’s citizen Airmen have been assisting the Hanscom community navigate COVID-19 response operations.

Individual mobilization augmentees, reservists assigned to an active duty counterpart, were activated with the 66th Air Base Group to reinforce senior leaders, and provide seamless support during the health crisis.

“Our jobs as augmentees have no timelines, and we stay as long as we’re needed,” said Col. Mark Wilson, IMA to the installation commander.

Different from traditional reservists who drill once a month with an assigned unit, IMAs serve as an individual reserve force for the active duty organization they’re attached to.

Master Sgt. Teresa Baker-Opland, IMA to the 66 ABG Inspector General Office superintendent, was activated alongside Wilson to serve on the installation’s COVID-19 task force.

Col. Chad Ellsworth, installation commander, said the IMAs have been instrumental in Hanscom’s response to COVID-19.

“Our IMAs offer such critical and unique skillsets to our team,” said Ellsworth. “They are there when we need them most, and never hesitate to jump into the arena.”  

With only a few days of notice, Wilson and Baker-Opland hit the ground running.

“It’s an expectation when you’re a reservist, particularly an IMA, that you’ll be ready when you’re needed,” said Baker-Opland, who is an entrepreneur, spiritual coach and teacher in her civilian life.

Wilson, who works as a senior project manager with the Digital Directorate’s Airspace Mission Planning Division here, said he is always prepared to fill in for the commander either for short-term or long-term missions.

“It’s what we train for,” he said.

Over the past two months, Wilson and Baker-Opland have served alongside their active duty wingmen to drive the installation crisis action team and lead the task force. This total force effort has kept Hanscom operating to deliver support to the warfighter even in the face of COVID-19.

Baker-Opland, who was previously active duty Navy, said that the role reservists play in the mission stretches far past a weekend drill; they’re always prepared to accelerate readiness and provide a level of depth to the unit.

“I can’t imagine anything more fulfilling than knowing I’ve had a hand in keeping people safe, keeping business running and the gates open,” she said.

Wilson, who is slated to retire in August after 30 years of service, said this most recent mission and opportunity has been a career-defining moment.

“Having your boss come to you and say ‘I need you’ is what we live for and what we train for,” said Wilson. “To be needed like that and to be able to really make a difference is what we place our values on.”