The Signal Newsletter

Atlanta Branch, Commissioned Officers Association
of the U.S. Public Health Service
(representing members assigned to Atlanta-area federal agencies)

Vol 19, Issue 2                                                                                              April / May 2009


Calendar of Events

1. Volunteers Needed for USO (United Service Organizations)
2. Volunteer at the Café 458 Weekend Brunch
3. An Invitation to Join “The Surgeon General’s Own”
4. Formal Officer Portraits
5. ACOA Uniform Store
6. PHS Flag Sales

1. The Atlanta Commissioned Officers Association (ACOA) Exhibits Superior Community Service
2. Atlanta Branch Recognized for Roadside Cleanup
3. USPHS Officers “Rescue” USO Shift
4. Commissioned Corps Uniform Changes - March 2009 Update

President's Column

Calendar of Events

Volunteer at the Café 458 Weekend Brunch.  Sunday, April 26. Contact LCDR Eric Pevzner to sign up or for more information. See full announcement below.

Formal Officer Portraits. Wednesdays, April 29, May 6, and May 13. CDC Roybal Campus, Building 19, CDC photography offices. Contact LT Jamie MutterSee full announcement below.

Lunch and Learn. The April Lunch and Learn has been rescheduled to May 14, 1130 to 1245. CDC, Koger Campus, Columbia Building, Room 1065. Topic: Financial Management. Contact LCDR Nicole Flowers 770.488.5176.

Volunteer at the USO. Saturday, May 16 and June 20. Contact LT Bret Nickels

USPHS Scientific and Training Symposium.  June 1-4. 2009, Atlanta, GA. Pre-conference trainings May 30 and 31. See for more information.

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Volunteers Needed for USO (United Service Organizations)

The USO’s mission is to enhance the quality of life of the United States Armed Forces personnel and their families worldwide. They provide variety of services and programs to help alleviate some of the stresses and burdens placed upon military families. In addition, USO helps foster cooperative relationships between military and civilian communities.

Their flagship operation is the USO Jean Amos Center at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. This USO Center, strategically located in the world’s busiest airport, assists thousands of active duty and their families, annually.

The Atlanta Commissioned Officer's Association (ACOA) is seeking volunteers to take part in supporting the Jean R. Amos USO Center at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. We staff the USO every 3rd Saturday of each month in two shifts.

Commissioned Corps officer volunteers are needed during the following days/times:


Shift 1 is from 0900 to 1200 and Shift 2 is from 1200 to 1500.
Saturday, May 16 Shift 1 and Shift 2
Saturday, June 20 Shift 1 and Shift 2

LT Bret Nickels is now the coordinator for USO-ACOA officer activities. If you would like to volunteer, please email LT Bret Nickels with day and shift preferences.

Consider volunteering. Be a part of sharing our camaraderie and community service to those who serve in the uniformed service. This is a wonderful and rewarding opportunity for everyone!

Thank you for your support!

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Volunteer at the Café 458 Weekend Brunch: A Program of Samaritan House of Atlanta

Have you wondered what it is like to wait tables? Or need to boost your CV for promotion? Now's your chance. Volunteer as kitchen help, servers, hosts, food runners, dishwashers, etc. at Café 458's Weekend Brunch, which is open to the paying public with all proceeds benefiting the Samaritan House. Samaritan House of Atlanta transforms lives by helping homeless men and women gain self-sufficiency through personalized employment readiness and life-stabilization programs.

WHEN: Sunday, April 26

SHIFTS: 0900 to 1400 and 1300 to 1700

(10 volunteers needed for morning shift and 8 to 10 for the afternoon shift)


Feel free to sign up for one or both shifts. During the second shift, at around 1400, Café 458 will close, and volunteers will be involved in cleaning up.

***This activity can be counted under the "officership" benchmark for promotion purposes***

 Contact LCDR Eric Pevzner to sign up or for more information.  

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An Invitation to Join “The Surgeon General’s Own”

United States Public Health Service (USPHS) Commissioned Corps Music Ensemble

The USPHS Ensemble consists of three groups: Choral Group, Wind Group, and Chamber Group. Currently, approximately 75 active duty PHS officers with duty stations in Washington, DC; Atlanta, GA; Butner, NC; and other field offices throughout the U.S. are performing members of “The Surgeon General’s Own.”

The mission of the USPHS Ensemble is to provide musical support for formal and informal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and appropriate non-HHS sponsored events. The USPHS Ensemble provides a valuable service to HHS, enhances visibility of the Commissioned Corps among HHS and non-HHS programs and organizations, and engenders esprit-de-corps. Each year, the USPHS Ensemble performs at the Commissioned Officers Foundation USPHS Scientific and Training Symposium; this year’s symposium is being held in Atlanta in June.

Both the Choral and Wind Groups of the Atlanta-area USPHS Ensemble are looking for new members with a passion for music, a dedication to the Corps, and who seek a highly rewarding experience. 

The Atlanta-area Choral Group rehearses every other Tuesday from 1730 to 1830 in the CDC Century Center Campus Office Park, Building 2400, First Floor Conference Room.

The Atlanta-area Winds Group rehearses Wednesdays from 1700 to 1800 Building 11, Corporate Square.

For more information about the Atlanta-area Choral Group, please visit our website or contact CDR Januett P. Smith-George.

For more information about the Atlanta-area Winds Group, please contact CAPT Mary Reichler.

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Formal Officer Portraits

The Atlanta Commissioned Officers Association has made arrangements with the CDC photographer to schedule special sitting times for formal Officer Portraits. The portraits will be taken of the officer in Service Dress Blue uniform, and will show the U.S. and PHS flags in the background. These formal portraits make excellent gifts for family and can also be used for agency-related print and electronic materials (e.g., professional presentations, media write-ups, retirement notifications, and recognition for awards). There is no cost to the officer for the photo sitting. Following the sitting, the officer will be provided with a free digital file of the photograph, which the officer can have printed at any digital photo processing vendor at their own expense. Designated PHS officers will be on hand to ensure that uniforms meet all uniform criteria. Portrait sittings can be scheduled during the following times:

Wednesday, April 29 0800 to 1200
Wednesday, May 6 0800 to 1200
Wednesday, May 13 0800 to 1200

Non-CDC Atlanta-area officers are welcome to schedule an appointment but will need to allow additional time to meet security requirements to enter CDC. All photography sessions will take place in the CDC photography offices located in Building 19 on the Clifton Road/Roybal Campus.

To schedule your appointment, please contact LT Jamie Mutter.

Additional dates and times will be scheduled this fall after promotion results are announced.

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ACOA Uniform Store

Don’t forget that ACOA has a uniform swap store!! If you have uniforms to donate, wish to purchase gently used uniform components (at very reduced rates), or if you would like to swap gently used uniforms/shoulder boards, contact LCDR Carol Rao, 404.639.4062 for female uniform components or LTJG Chris Fletcher, 770.488.0755 for male uniform components.

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PHS Flag Sales

In an effort to support esprit de corps, as well as to raise funds to support organization activities, ACOA developed and sells full-size USPHS flags and US/USPHS miniature flag desk sets. These flags are available for purchase by USPHS officers and civilians nationwide. These flags were purchased for use by the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), as retirement, birthday and holiday gifts, and much more. The full size PHS flag design is not readily available from any other source and makes a great addition to your home or office. It can also serve as a great gift for fellow officers on any special occasion.

The full-size USPHS flag sells for $55 and the US/USPHS flags desk set sells for $18. ACOA members receive a discount and can purchase the full-size USPHS flag for $50 and the US/USPHS flags desk set for $16. For more information, please contact LTJG Chris Fletcher, 770.488.0755.

USPHS full-size flag US/USPHS miniature flag desk set

Please note: These items are for personal use. The USPHS flag is not intended to replace official USPHS flags, as noted in Subchapter CC29.9 of the Commissioned Corps Personnel Manual.

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The Atlanta Commissioned Officers Association (ACOA) Exhibits Superior Community Service
Contributed by LCDR Anna Satcher Johnson and LCDR Eddie Weiss

In 2008, over 150 Atlanta-area USPHS Commissioned Corps officers gave back to the community through participation in numerous Atlanta Commissioned Officers Association (ACOA) sponsored community service activities. Some popular events included serving at the United Service Organization (USO), roadside clean-up, and volunteering for Habitat for Humanity. In addition, officers participated in several new events.

ACOA has engaged regularly in community service for years, and 2008 was no exception. Every third Saturday ACOA coordinates volunteers to serve at the Jean R. Amos USO Center at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, the world’s busiest airport. During 2008, Atlanta-area officers assisted the USO in providing snacks and service to thousands of the men and women of the uniformed services. True dedication was shown on the third weekend in December when USPHS officers provided 24-hour service to military personnel who were returning home for the holidays. USPHS officers took great pride in sharing camaraderie and providing community service to those who serve in the uniformed service.

The quarterly roadside cleanup is another ACOA-sponsored community service that is supported by many volunteers. This service is conducted as part of the Georgia Adopt-a-Highway program. Officers and their family and friends helped keep a 1-mile stretch of roadway clean. For its efforts, ACOA received a Certificate of Appreciation from the Department of Transportation.

In addition, for the third consecutive year, ACOA organized a build with the Atlanta affiliate of Habitat for Humanity. Officers who volunteered helped to provide the opportunity of homeownership to a low-income family in need.

In the past year, ACOA community service activities were expanded to include several new projects. First, ACOA organized a volunteer event at the Café’ 458 weekend brunch. Café 458 offers a full scale brunch to Atlanta residents and visitors every Sunday. All proceeds from the Sunday brunch benefit the Samaritan House of Atlanta, which is an organization devoted to transforming lives by helping homeless men and women gain self-sufficiency through personalized employment readiness and life-stabilization programs. Officers had the opportunity to volunteer as kitchen help, servers, hosts, food runners, and dishwashers. This activity was organized twice in the past year and both times officers helped to make the Café 458 weekend brunch a success.

ACOA also organized a community service activity with Project Open Hand, a volunteer-driven nonprofit organization that provides healthy meals, dietary counseling, and nutrition education to its clients. At this community service event, officers delivered meals to homebound seniors and other Atlanta residents with chronic, critical, or terminal illnesses.

In addition, local officers worked alongside low-income neighborhood residents to create a community garden. The garden, supported by The Atlanta Food Bank, will serve to supply food for local residents and beautify their neighborhood.

Finally, Atlanta COA coordinated a community service event at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston. At this activity officers helped bring a summer camp experience to patients and families through fun activities such as sports and arts and crafts.

In the past year, all the community service volunteer requests have received an overwhelming response. This demonstrates the strong service-oriented nature of the ACOA members. ACOA appreciates the efforts of officers and their families who have helped make these events a success and encourages all officers to continue their support of ACOA’s commitment to community service. During 2009, Atlanta COA plans to develop new projects to serve senior citizens and plans to coordinate a volunteer activity with the Junior Officer Advisory Group.

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Atlanta Branch Recognized for Roadside Cleanup
Contributed by CDR (Ret) Lester Sharpton 

The Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) recognized the Atlanta Commissioned Officers Association (ACOA) with a Certificate of Appreciation for its long-time partnership in keeping Atlanta’s Ponce de Leon Avenue clean of litter. It is ACOA’s first recognition from GDOT. On behalf of GDOT, CDR (Ret) Lester Sharpton presented the award to LCDR Anna Satcher-Johnson (ACOA Community Service Co-Chair) during the ACOA’s December general membership meeting held at Chamblee campus, GA.

The roadside cleanup is ACOA’s longest continuing community service project (beginning in the 1990s). Over the years, the project has involved hundreds of volunteer active duty and retired commissioned officers, co-workers and family members contributing thousands of man-hours, almost always on weekends.

ACOA cleans both sides of a one-mile stretch of multi-lane Ponce de Leon Avenue every three months. This roadway is the busiest entry point to Atlanta. It includes four US Highways (23, 29, 78 & 278) and two-state roads (8 & 10). It lies in the City of Atlanta, DeKalb County and passes along four of Atlanta’s oldest parks (Springdale, Virginia, Oak Grove and Shadyside Parks). The setting was used in the 1989 motion picture, “Driving Miss Daisy”, starring Morgan Freeman.

GDOT maintains signs near Briarcliff and Clifton Road intersections, which provide high profile recognition for the ACOA that is seen by thousands of motorist, cyclist and pedestrians every day.

[Editor's note: Roadside cleanups have been temporarily suspended but will resume at a later date. See the President's Column below.]

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USPHS Officers “Rescue” USO Shift 
Contributed by CDR Edecia Richards

Upon my arrival to the Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson Airport USO the morning of February 21, 2009, I observed that we did not have any sandwiches or supplies to make sandwiches. In addition, there were fewer than a dozen bottles of water. Based on this assessment, I made a couple of phone calls to solicit food donations from CAPT Holt and CDR Quintyne, who were both scheduled for the afternoon shift. After placing that phone call, I called the other three officers assigned with me on morning shift together, explained our dire situation and solicited their financial assistance to purchase the necessary food items. LCDR Forbes was tasked with picking up the food items. In the interim, I fried the five packs of bacon and offered bacon sandwiches to the troops. Upon LCDR Forbes arrival with the food items to prepare sandwiches, CDR Mazzerillo and I could not prepare the sandwiches fast enough for the troops. We were all truly happy to serve our troops. Ms. Austin was so moved by our display of comrade and commitment to serve that she presented us with an award on the spot. Lastly, the troops verbalized their appreciation for our services and we said likewise. The Esprit de Corps displayed by the officers assigned that weekend (1st shift and CAPT Holt, CDR Quintyne, and CDR John Iskander ) was very impressive.

Plans are now in place to coordinate with USO to ensure sufficient food is on hand when our officers arrive to volunteer (purchasing food with one’s own money is above and beyond any expectations, making our volunteers’ efforts all the more extraordinary). We still have openings for officers to volunteer to serve at the USO on the following dates, May 16 and June 20. This is an excellent way to give back to those who give so much for our great country!

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Commissioned Corps Uniform Changes - March 2009
Contributed by CDR Bruce Tierney

In March, USPHS officers received clarification on required deployment uniforms and the future of the Woodland Green BDU. The message from the Acting Surgeon General states that “Officers should continue to purchase the Woodland BDU at this time.”


Adopt Navy Working Uniform (NWU)

Policy development dependent on action by Navy (Could change depending on Navy).
Expected effective date:
TBD – Message from Acting Surgeon General in March 2009 indicated that transition to NWU is being re-examined and that current BDU is expected to remain in the uniform inventory for the present time. 

Item 2. Adopt the Navy Official Uniform Policy and Regulations in Regards to Wear and Appearance of the Navy Working Uniform (NWU):
In the near future, following the recent adoption of the NWU by the Navy, a number of Commissioned Corps uniforms are expected to undergo a transition to reflect changes to the Navy uniform inventory. In addition, the Corps was planning to adopt a PHS version of the NWU as the new Corps working uniform but that plan is now being re-examined by the Acting ASH. Currently, there are discussions to determine whether the NWU meets the needs of the Corps and re-evaluating all available alternatives to satisfy Corps requirements. Until a new determination is made on a working uniform the current BDU will remain as the primary working uniform. This is expected to be the case for about two years at a minimum. It is also noted that in making the original decision to adopt the NWU, it was understood that Navy needs could dictate changes in the uniform or its distribution that would alter the PHS approach. Of note the new NWU includes the ACE (Anchor/Constitution/Eagle) symbol and USN embedded in the print of the uniform material in addition to the ACE embroidered on the left breast pocket.

However, even if the Corps does not adopt a version of the NWU plans to begin the phase-out of the Corps' Working Khaki, Working Winter Blue, and tropical working uniforms to match the expected changes to Navy uniform regulations are still going forward. Some of these uniform changes have already been announced in PPM 08-020.

Future of the PHS BDU:
As I have alluded to previously, after more than 20 years where each of our sister services used the Woodland Camouflage BDU, each of them has recently deployed or proposed to put into service a new field utility uniform that differs greatly from the current PHS BDU. It was originally expected that the PHS would adopt a version of the NWU as the new PHS field utility uniform as a result of the policy decisions made by the ASH in August 2007. However, that plan is now being re-examined by the Acting ASH to determine whether the NWU meets the needs of the PHS. There is still an expectation that the current PHS BDU will be replaced at some point in the future but it is currently anticipated that it will remain the primary PHS working uniform for the next two years.

Even though the BDU may be changing in the near future it is now a required uniform to maintain and will likely be required for future deployments. Should it be phased out in the future it is also expected that there will be a transition period for the current BDU. This will make it authorized for wear for at least some period of time that as yet has not been determined but could last into 2011 or even beyond. And since officers are now authorized to wear the BDU every Friday you will have ample opportunity to make use of your investment. So to ensure that you are prepared for deployment, I encourage every officer to start now to put your BDU together, so that you can ensure it is correct and ready to go when you are called to go to the field to do what we do best as PHS officers, helping others in need at a time of crisis.

Below is the original text of the message from RADM Steven K. Galson:

Message from the Acting Surgeon General on the PHS BDU, March 2009

Commissioned Corps Officers,

As you know, the Commissioned Corps currently deploys wearing two standard uniforms, either the Service Khaki (poly/wool, no ribbons) or the Woodland Green Battle Dress Uniform (BDU). You may also be aware that across the Services (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard) new versions of working uniforms (such as the Navy Working Uniform (NWU)) are being adopted and worn. In July 2007, then Admiral Agwunobi, Assistant Secretary for Health, determined that the NWU would be the next working uniform for the Corps, ultimately replacing the Woodland Green BDU. In making that decision, it was understood that Navy needs could dictate changes in the uniform or its distribution that would alter the PHS approach. I am re-examining whether the NWU meets the needs of the PHS and re-evaluating all available alternatives that may satisfy our requirements as the supply of the BDU diminishes.

At this time, the Woodland Green BDU remains one of the PHS authorized deployment uniforms. The Woodland Green BDU will continue to be authorized while other options are being explored. Though changing circumstances may dictate otherwise, we currently anticipate using the Woodland Green BDU for about two years - however, please note that supplies are expected to diminish during this period. Officers who are now being called to active duty, and those on active duty who anticipate deployment, are required by policy to own the Woodland Green BDU. Officers should continue to purchase the Woodland Green BDU at this time.

When a decision is made as to what uniform will replace the Woodland Green BDU, adequate time will be provided for the Corps to make the transition.
Thank you for your attention to this matter. I trust this offers clarification and helps to keep you informed.

Steven K. Galson, M.D., M.P.H.
Acting Assistant Secretary for Health
Acting Surgeon General

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President's Column

D. Ross Spears, CDR, USPHS

There’s a maxim that goes “Those who fail to plan, plan to fail.” Mindful of that bit of common wisdom, the ACOA Executive Committee (EC) is making plans for the immediate as well as the long term future of the Branch. The announcements section of this month’s The Signal show planned events where officers can demonstrate officership through service to the community. ACOA’s community service activities in the coming months include support for Café 458, MedShare International, and the monthly USO support. The Community Service Committee is developing ideas for still more projects. The goal is to ensure that ACOA provides the maximum number of opportunities for area officers to work together as an active, concerned Branch.

In addition to community service projects, ACOA is planning activities that will support area Corps officers. Officers will be needed to support the EIS Prediction Run. The February Lunch and Learn on applying for federal jobs was outstanding. More Lunch and Learns are being planned with topics of interest to Branch members, including the May 14 seminar on Financial Management. ACOA is supporting other opportunities for officer development, including the upcoming national conference, and the recently announced Observer/Controller Group at CDC’s Emergency Operations Center. The EC is continuing to plan for support of the upcoming USPHS Scientific and Training Symposium, itself a great opportunity for Atlanta officers. It is anticipated that officers will be needed to support the national meeting. Registration is open now for the 2009 USPHS Symposium.

ACOA is planning for the long-term future of the Branch as well. Recently, ACOA has had to cancel two events, the February Roadside Cleanup as well as the March APFT at St. Pius. The need to postpone these events until a later date has been driven by a mandate that HHS employee associations carry liability protection to protect officers who support ACOA activities from legal action should something unfortunate occur. The ACOA Executive Committee is working now to secure the needed protection, and in the mean time remains committed to supporting its officers as the Branch continues its tradition of excellence. We are also committed to ensuring that officers who support ACOA activities are kept safe. Planning for ensuring the safety and protection of ACOA event participants is a critical part of the Executive Committee’s responsibility, and members may be assured that the EC is working diligently on this important issue.

In summary, although ACOA has had to cancel two events recently, ACOA is still planning and supporting many exciting opportunities for officers. The feedback from members has been appreciated. The spirit of leadership and volunteerism by members has been tremendous. The planning put into the 2009 efforts will continue to bear fruit, and will put our Branch at the forefront of the Commissioned Officers Association of the US Public Health Service.


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For comments about the newsletter please contact The Signal editor,
CDR Vasavi T. Thomas.

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The Signal, Volume 18, Issue 66