Enriquez reflects on tenure as installation commander

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

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass.Col. Taona Enriquez will relinquish command of the 66th Air Base Group July 10 at 9 a.m. in the Aero Club hangar, marking the end of her tenure as installation commander and a career in the Air Force.

Following the change of command ceremony, a retirement ceremony will take place at 1 p.m. at the Old North Bridge in Concord, Massachusetts.

“It’s been an honor to lead the 66th Air Base Group,” said Enriquez. “Our mission has always been to support our community and mission partners without exception, and I believe we’ve lived up to that promise.”

Since taking command in June 2022, Enriquez has worked to establish on- and off-base partnerships.

“The Regional Commander's Symposium has been transformative,” she said. “Before its establishment, interactions were often reactive and centered around problems. Now, we meet quarterly with commanders and senior enlisted leaders to foster communication and collaboration.”

The symposium has facilitated conversations and solutions, such as addressing challenges faced by the Exceptional Family Member Program.

Another initiative has been the growth of the Honorary Commander and Director Program. The program has established new connections between military and industry leaders.

“We reintroduced the program and expanded it beyond just [Air Base Group] senior positions,” she said. “It’s created an incredible ecosystem of connection across the installation.”

The Honorary Commander and Director Program has enabled innovative collaborations, leading to practical advancements, including efforts to scale a digital engineering certificate program for Air Force-wide use and solutions for government contracting processes.

Enriquez also highlighted partnerships with academia.

“Our relationship with UMass Lowell has been incredible,” she said. “Their ability to identify gaps and provide solutions has been invaluable. They’re not just partners; they’re integral to our current and future successes.”

Reflecting on advancements in infrastructure, the installation commander highlighted the response to a September 2022 power outage as a crucial turning point.

"The outage underscored our dire need for reliable cellular service," she said. "With 2,600 family members and 4,400 personnel impacted, our lack of connectivity was unacceptable."

She detailed how the crisis expedited long-overdue improvements.  

"We coordinated with the governor's office and AT&T, which accelerated the deployment of FirstNet infrastructure," said Enriquez. "We went from being the last in line to the first to install this cellular service, setting us up as a pathfinder for the Air Force."

Additionally, she spearheaded the installation of commercial Wi-Fi across several buildings.  

"Our team renegotiated costs and managed to fund connectivity upgrades for multiple buildings, enhancing the working conditions for our personnel," said Enriquez.

The commander also discussed the importance of professional and personal development initiatives.

"The inclusion of civilians in ALS [Airman Leadership School] has been a game-changer," she said. "Three of the first four civilians won academic and Levitow awards, highlighting the caliber of our team."

Enriquez also introduced monthly “Coffee Connectedness” sessions.

"These sessions, rotating through different ranks, allow us to discuss challenges and share personal stories. It's about creating a sense of belonging and understanding," Enriquez said.

Professional development extended to the Team Hanscom Awards, held in December 2023 for the time since 2018.

"These ceremonies not only recognize achievements but also educate everyone about the diverse roles within our base," she said. "Hearing about different projects and initiatives fosters a deeper connection and appreciation."

Listening to feedback from the community has been another approach taken by Enriquez. The base recently conducted a tenant satisfaction survey, achieving a 41 percent response rate.

"This feedback is invaluable," she said. "I'm waiting for approval to share these comments with the community, and I have a town hall scheduled for the end of June to discuss the results."

Enriquez spoke about the importance of ensuring joint partners feel heard and supported.

"We have Coast Guard, Army, Marine and Navy families who haven’t always had a voice due to their distance from leadership," she said. "But we are absolutely connected, and we’re committed to getting this right for them because they deserve it."

The overarching philosophy driving these initiatives is the recognition that while the military recruits service members, it retains families.

"If we don’t retain those families, we won’t keep our service members," she said. "At this juncture in our nation’s defense, we need them, so we have to get that part right."

As she prepares to retire, Enriquez reflected on the personal milestones and experiences that have shaped her career.

“I’ve been incredibly fortunate to work with some of the best and brightest,” she said. “Their support and guidance have been invaluable. My family has been my rock, providing unwavering support through the ups and downs of military life and have loved me unconditionally.”

Reflecting on her career, Enriquez expressed deep gratitude.

"This has been my dream job for 23 years, with two years in ROTC. Now, Rick and I get to shape our next dream and adventure in this unknown world," she said.