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Stephens tenure as installation commander: All gas, no brakes

  • Published
  • By Mark Wyatt
  • 66th Air Base Group Public Affairs

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. – When first notified that she would become installation commander here, Col. Katrina Stephens was “absolutely elated.”

As she reflects on the past two years, she is proud that “despite all the challenges, we accomplished a lot.”

“When I found out I was coming to Hanscom in February 2020, few could have predicted the impact COVID would have,” Stephens said. “Leading a team that by June was largely working from home was challenging but provided opportunities.”

Stephens committed to connecting with members of the workforce and their families through the resources available.

“One of the lessons I’ve learned for sure is that being connected is so much more important than I ever thought it was,” she said. “Communicating is a challenge, even more so to do effectively.”

The commander and her wingman, Command Chief Master Sgt. William Hebb, pre-recorded and recorded live more than 75 videos highlighting monthly observances, town halls, quarterly and annual awards and other events throughout her tenure.

It was essential to her that civilians, enlisted and officers, whom she calls “CEOs,” knew the role they played in accomplishing the mission.

“It’s very important that the men and women, the CEOs, understand how valuable they all are and how much we truly appreciate what they do,” said Stephens.

She also highlighted the importance of maintaining good working relationships with local towns.

“It was nice to be able to connect with them to learn what they were facing and how they were adjusting, but also to keep them up to speed on the fact that, as you know, Hanscom Air Force Base was all gas, no brakes,” said Stephens.

The commander said she spoke with town managers on a monthly basis, either virtually or in person.

“We all were working toward a common goal to take care of our people and the resources in our respective areas,” said Stephens.

In addition, Stephens highlighted the relationships she had with Hanscom’s program executive officers and other mission partners.

“It’s been about lending a helping hand when they needed something and not being afraid to ask for help when it’s needed,” she said. “We’re here to support and sustain the installation and all those who work and live here.”

In March 2021, Stephens unveiled a new motto for the installation, “Revolutionizing the Warfighter’s Edge,” and named the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk the official mascot following a Community Action Board meeting.

The commander said the motto traces back to the varied missions here at Hanscom.

“It serves as a reminder of how we are constantly accelerating change by Revolutionizing the Warfighter’s Edge,” said Stephens.

Stephens was familiar with the base, having been assigned here from May 2000 to March 2003. She committed to taking advantage of the region.

“My husband and I truly love New England and everything New England has to offer,” she said. “I think Hanscom is a resource that not many people understand or appreciate until they get here because we all want to come back.”

She highlighted the installation’s proximity to so many historical sites and the opportunities afforded Airmen.

“We are literally two miles away from Louisa May Alcott’s house, from Walden Pond, the Old North Bridge and from Lexington,” she said.

With so many Patriots’ Day events canceled in 2021, Stephens took full advantage of the opportunity to participate this year.

“The reason that we are where we are today is because of those patriots,” she said.

Standing on the field at Fenway Park during pre-game festivities was another highlight.

“It’s always an honor to lead Airmen, but watching the faces and the reactions of people as they walk onto the field is priceless,” she said. “My reward is how much they enjoy being in this area and taking advantage of the things that are made available to us. It’s about the partnerships.”

She offered this advice to members of the 66th Air Base Group upon her departure.

“Build upon the foundation,” she said. “Build upon the culture we’ve established, that we’ve worked so hard to establish in spite of everything that’s going on.”

Stephens will hand over command during a ceremony June 27 at 9 a.m. at the Aero Club Hangar. She is confident the next commander will continue moving the 66 ABG forward.

Stephens will retire in the local area this summer following a 26-year career.

"I’m certain the 66th Air Base Group will continue to Revolutionize the Warfighter’s Edge into the future,” she said.