IMA is a smile saver

  • Published
  • By Tyler Grimes
  • Citizen Airman Magazine

As an individual mobilization augmentee, Lt. Col. (Dr.) Curt Hayes has the opportunity to not only serve his community but also his fellow Airmen, often when they need a lot of dental help.

“I love helping people on their most difficult days after a trauma or accident,” the board certified surgeon said. “I am the person they are trusting to help heal them."

Hayes, who is part of the 90th Medical Group at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming, applies more than a decade of experience in dentistry to keep Reservists fit to fight using the latest medical advancements. After graduating from the Air Force Academy in 1999, Hayes went on to earn his credentials at the University of Colorado School of Dental Medicine in 2003 and completed his residency in oral and maxillofacial surgery at Wilford Hall Medical Center at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, in 2008.

“One of the things I am most proud about is my work with Exparel,” he said. “Exparel is a drug that keeps patients numb in the surgical site up to 36 hours after surgery, negating any need for narcotics. Patients get back to work quicker and are in less pain. This has huge benefits for the military as our Airman can get back on duty three days after surgery."

He earned the 2013 - 2014 Air Force Dentist of the Year award for his work during a humanitarian deployment to South Africa and for performing surgery at multiple bases across Europe.

Hayes left active duty in July 2016 to join the Air Force Reserve. The change in status allows him to spend more time with his family and have a private practice as well.

“I surprised a lot of people when they found out I was separating from active duty not long after I was awarded the Air Force Dentist of the Year,” he said. “I decided to separate from active duty because our oldest son has autism, and I wanted to provide my family with more stability. I joined the Reserve because I wanted to remain a military officer. I bleed blue and I am thankful for the opportunity to continue to serve."

And, because Hayes chose to fill an IMA billet, he continues to directly support the active-component Air Force. He is one of more than 7,000 IMAs assigned to augment active-component and government organizations. Unlike traditional reservists, who serve one weekend a month, plus an annual tour, at an all-reserve wing, IMAs complete their annual requirements (between 24 and 36 days) in one or two longer blocks of time, serving alongside their active-component counterparts. The dual nature of an IMA's life allows them to bring a diverse marriage of military and civilian experiences not normally available within a military organization. To learn more about the IMA program, visit

As a Reserve Citizen Airman, Hayes said he really has the best of both worlds.

“Exposure to the general public makes me appreciate the military and the role I have in it,” he said. “We are often sheltered from more medically complex patients in the military and it has made me a better surgeon."

In addition to providing dental care, Hayes said he also takes pride in providing mentorship to other service members and being a pillar in his local area.

“I have been well trained and have a skill that people need,” he said. “I am happy to be able to share that with others, and know they are getting exceptional care from a thoughtful provider. Additionally, mentoring has always been a passion for me. Many of my Airmen still contact me for advice, which means the world to me.”