The Signal  Newsletter

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

Vol 21, Issue 1                                                                                              April 2011


President's Column

1. Atlanta COA Celebrates its 4th Annual Anchor and Caduceus Dinner
2. ACOA Volunteers at Medshare
3. ACOA Community Service Project with Café 458
4. ACOA Supports “Operation Holiday Block” at the Atlanta USO

President's Column

Chris Fletcher, LT, USPHS, ACOA President

The Atlanta branch of the Commissioned Officers Association (ACOA) started the year with a bang! If you were unable to attend the 2011 Anchor and Caduceus Dinner, you missed a great evening! The most attended Anchor and Caduceus Dinner to date (141 tickets sold). We have certainly started the year off on a high mark. The event included motivational speeches, live entertainment and honor awards. ACOA honored retiree, RADM (ret) Robert Williams, with a Lifetime Membership; VADM Richard Carmona, the keynote speaker, delivered remarks on the PHS; and a live band which included our very own ACOA EC member, as the bassist, kept the audience entertained throughout the evening. Look for the article in this edition of The Signal for the full story and pictures.

The 2011 Executive Committee (EC) is settling into their stride and looking for ways to provide more volunteer opportunities for ACOA members to support the community and each other. Watch the listserv for announcements throughout the year. In addition, this year you can expect informative Lunch and Learn series with fresh new and popular old topics. Our Community Service Committee is working hard to provide a multitude of opportunities to give back locally. For instance, the committee is working hard to organize some events twice a year, such as Habitat for Humanity, Café 458, and others. The Events Planning Committee is already hard at work planning the 2011 Promotion Ceremony and the 2012 Anchor and Caduceus Dinner – any interested volunteers are encourage to contact the committee chairs; with our events growing larger, there are more and more opportunities to get involved.

With the record number of officers who ran for election to the 2011 EC, I think interest in serving ACOA is at a high. This comes at a great time as ACOA events are increasing in size and complexity, more volunteers are needed to fill more, smaller, shorter term roles as ACOA continues to develop more opportunities for members to become involved. Finally, I would like to welcome ACOA’s 2011 Vice President, CDR Eddie Weiss. CDR Weiss is a returning ACOA EC veteran who has spent the last two years building the Community Service Committee into a robust, active and efficient committee. I know CDR Weiss will lead ACOA to do great things in 2012.


LT Chris Fletcher

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Atlanta COA Celebrates its 4th Annual Anchor and Caduceus Dinner
Contributed by LT Erin Koers and CDR Rachel Avchen

Nestled away in the heart of Buckhead, the Fourth Annual Atlanta Area Anchor and Caduceus Dinner was held at Anthony’s Restaurant in Buckhead on Friday, January 28th, 2011. This year’s event marked a record-breaking, sell-out attendance with 141 officers and guests. Following a reception and cocktail hour, the PHS Honor Cadre and CAPT Bruce Tierney, Protocol Officer and Master of Ceremonies, called the evening to order. CAPT Tierney’s emcee expertise set a smooth tone to the evening, keeping guests attentive and enthused. The evening was colored by words of encouragement, praise, and gratitude from a series of notable guests. Due to an unfortunate last minute cancellation, CDC Director and ATSDR Administrator, Dr. Thomas Frieden’s scheduled welcome was provided by Deputy Director Dr. Judy Monroe. Through a humorous account of going into labor in the company of former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop during a site visit in rural Tennessee, Dr. Monroe praised the constant readiness of Public Health Service Officers. Dinner and dancing followed, accompanied by the tunes of the Hansen-Karell Band, of which Atlanta COA’s CDR Joe Little is a member.

In due process, COA Executive Director Jerry Farrell provided opening remarks for the evening with a cogent review of COA updates. He discussed progress in resolving the unexpected challenges that accompanied the implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, followed by a summary of continued efforts in working towards parity with the other Uniformed Services. His remarks were concluded by acknowledging COA’s recent successes in the awarding of eligibility to PHS and NOAA Officers for the Post-9/11 GI Bill transferability entitlement. While major steps have been achieved in this top priority legislative campaign emphasis was placed on the need for continued COA support, as the legislation still needs to be certified by the Secretary of Defense and then approved and implemented by Secretary Sebelius.

The evening continued with the introduction of the event’s honored guest RADM (ret) Robert C. Williams. RADM Sven Rodenbeck, Chief Engineer, RADM (ret) Kenneth Moritsugu, Acting Surgeon General, and VADM Richard Carmona, 17th Surgeon General, provided attendees with a humorous, yet awe-inspiring, recount of RADM Williams’ impressive career. RADM Williams, himself an engineer, was praised for his remarkable leadership among non-engineer public health professionals, for his integral contributions to the application of GIS technology in the environmental health domain, and his capacity to operationalize visions of the Surgeon General’s Office. ACOA also honored RADM Williams with a Lifetime Membership. Guests were left with a great appreciation for and inspiration to continue the fight of the talented leaders before them.

The notable list of speakers for the evening concluded with the VADM Richard Carmona, 17th Surgeon General. VADM Carmona provided an entertaining glimpse of the congressional confirmation process, as he illustrated his vision of the PHS as a backbone for a non-partisan national public health system. In establishing this foundation, VADM Carmona emphasized the importance of promoting PHS leadership from within its own ranks and a sense of professionalism among its officers- a professionalism characterized by a uniformed, physically fit cadre of officers. VADM Carmona’s remarks offered a strong sense of direction in helping the PHS fully realize it’s potential.

The 4th Annual Anchor and Caduceus Dinner concluded with a series of formal toasts, the cake ceremony, more dancing, and a successful raffle from which a portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Commissioned Officers Foundation Scholarship Program. The planning committee wishes to acknowledge the generous contributions of the individuals and businesses that made our raffle such a success.

Upon exiting the celebration, guests received a commemorative tee-shirt, made possible in part by the generous donation of LCDR Dianna Carroll and Mr. Bill Carroll. The evening’s success was a reflection of the dedication and dutiful planning of the Anchor and Caduceus Dinner Planning Committee*, led by Chair CDR Rachel Avchen and Co-Chair, LCDR Dianna Carroll. The Planning Committee would like to extend a special thank you to all attendees, participants, and honored guests for making the Fourth Annual Anchor and Caduceus Dinner one to remember.

*Fourth Annual Anchor and Caduceus Planning Committee CDR Rachel Avchen, Chair, LCDR Dianna Carroll, Co-Chair, CAPT Bruce Tierney, Protocol Officer, CAPT Craig Wilkins, Invocation, LCDR Deborah Dee, Social Secretary Chair, LCDR Jasen Kunz, Honoree Ceremony Chair, LT Amy Freeland, Logistics Chair, LT Danielle Mills, Public Relations Chair, Dr. Romerl Elizes, Webmaster;
Supporting members: CDR Todd Alspach, CDR Maleeka Glover, CDR Kimberly Walker, CDR Jennifer Williams, LCDR Lisa Belcher, LCDR Tchernavia Gregory, LCDR Joe Laco, LCDR Diane Morof, LCDR Pritish Tosh, LCDR Matthew Weinburke, LT Erica Bushong, LT Christopher Fletcher, LT Laura Gieraltowski, LT Erin Koers, LT Shauna Mettee, LTJG Erin Grasso

VADM Richard Carmona, CDR Rachel Avchen, and LCDR Diane Morof announcing raffle winners

LT Christopher Fletcher, LCDR Jason Kunz, presenting award to RADM (ret) Robert C. Williams

RADM (ret) Robert C. Williams and CDR Rachel Avchen

CAPT Bruce Tierney, USN CAPT (ret) Jerry Farrell, and CDR Rachel Avchen

VADM Richard Carmona and LTJG Candis Hunter cutting the cake

VADM Richard Carmona, RADM (ret) Kenneth Moritsugu, RADM (ret) Robert C. Williams, and CAPT Bruce Tierney
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ACOA Volunteers at Medshare

Approximately 7,000 tons of medical supplies are discarded in the United States each day. Supplies, often still unused, are sent to landfills and incinerators because of production surplus, procedural excess and regulatory requirements. At the same time, people all over the world are dying for lack of medical supplies. Since its inception in 1998, MedShare International, in collaboration with American hospitals, has collected and shipped over 600 forty-foot containers of surplus medical supplies and equipment. MedShare’s aid has saved lives in 105 countries in the developing world.

On December 4, 2010, the Atlanta COA Community Service Committee sponsored the second annual volunteer opportunity with MedShare International in Decatur, GA. Working with David Winograd, MedShare’s Hospital In-Service and Volunteer Coordinator, ten PHS officers helped sort, box and prepare surplus medical supplies for transportation at MedShare’s facility. ACOA members worked side by side with students from Georgia Tech and members of Hands On Atlanta. Supplies are destined for shipment to countries around the world. In December MedShare sent shipments to Ecuador, Ghana, Haiti, Sudan, Costa Rica, and Armenia.

For more information on MedShare International please see

Activity co-coordinators CDR John Iskander and LCDR Paula Peters

Front row: (L to R) LCDR Paula Peters, LCDR Henraya McGruder, CDR Terry Porter, LCDR Christine Olson, LT Monica Leonard, CDR John Iskander, CAPT Pamela Ching, CAPT Bruce Tierney
Back row: (L to R) LT Monique Salter, CAPT Walter Holt
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ACOA Community Service Project with Café 458

On Sunday, November 12th, eight volunteers from ACOA hopped out of bed to serve brunch to patrons of Café 458. ACOA members volunteered as servers, hosts, kitchen help, and dishwashers. All proceeds from Café 458, including tips, go directly to support the Atlanta Center for Self Sufficiency. The Atlanta Center for Self Sufficiency is a nonprofit agency whose mission is to transforms lives by helping homeless men and women achieve self-sufficiency through personalized employment readiness and life stabilization programs (

Crowds were lighter than usual because of the threat of snow so ACOA members utilized open time periods to talk with staff at the Atlanta Center for Self Sufficiency about health topics ranging from HIV prevention, malaria control, smoking cessation, and nutritional initiatives. This was the second time in 2010 that ACOA has volunteered at the Café and based on the positive experiences of our officers we plan to volunteer again soon. Café 458 is open to the paying public for brunch on Sundays and often hosts special events featuring local chefs. You can support the Atlanta Center for Self Sufficiency by volunteering on your own, dining at Café 458, or by signing up for the next ACOA service project at Café 458.

LCDR Christine Olson delivers brunch to some hungry customers at Café 458

CAPT Ruth Jiles does some serious cleaning after serving as a hostess at the Cafe
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ACOA Supports “Operation Holiday Block” at the Atlanta USO
Contributed by CDR Ross Spears, CDR Edecia Richards, CDR Kim Walker, and LCDR Bret Nickels

The United Services Organization (USO) is a nonprofit, congressionally chartered, private organization dedicated to supporting men and women in the uniform of the United States, as well as their families. Individual USO facilities are often located in airports to offer food and a place to rest for service members in transit between duty stations or between the combat zone and a few days home for leave. The Jean R. Amos USO Center, located in Atlanta’s Hartsfield Jackson Airport, is one of the busiest in the world. Each month, hundreds of troops stop in at the Atlanta USO on their way to or from the combat zone. Each December, thousands of troops from Fort Benning pass through on their way home for the holidays. Due to an expansion of the size of Fort Benning, 2010 was a particularly busy year, with well over 5000 troops expected, so the Atlanta USO organized “Operation Holiday Block”, in which various Atlanta-area groups donated and served food from the week before Christmas until just after the New Year.

The Atlanta branch of the Commissioned Officers Association of the US Public Health Service (ACOA), has supported the Jean R. Amos Center since 2003. ACOA has received several awards for its service, both from USO and Fort Benning. ACOA officers serve every third Saturday of the month during the year, from 0900 – 1500, donating and serving sandwiches and snacks to traveling service members and their families. December is a difficult month, due not only to the large numbers of soldiers from Fort Benning, but also the poor weather, which invariably strands soldiers for days in the Atlanta airport. Therefore, in December of each year, ACOA expands its volunteer efforts by donating and serving hundreds of dollars of hot food and serves for 12 to 24 hours. This year, ACOA members donated almost $700 to provide hot lunches and supper for the troops. Officers served in three hour rotations from noon to midnight on Saturday December 18, 2010. Hot lunches consisting of chili dogs, fresh fruits and vegetables, and snacks were served most of the day. During the evening, PHS officers served their annual menu of lasagna and garlic bread. Officers also donated items for the children’s area of the Jean R. Amos Center to entertain stranded families. PHS officers met the troops at the security exit area, helped to secure the soldiers’ baggage, and cooked, served food and cleaned for 12 hours, until relieved by another volunteer group.

The effort serves not only to help service members in need, but also provides excellent visibility for our small and relatively unknown Branch of the Uniformed Services. During the afternoon, CAPT Bruce Tierney and CDR Ross Spears (both ACOA Past Presidents) presented PHS challenge coins to the President of the Atlanta USO, Ms. Mary Lou Austin. While there, the recently appointed Commanding General at Fort Benning, Major General Michael Barbero, expressed his thanks to the USO and the supporting volunteers, including ACOA officers, for their efforts. The opportunity to help our fellow men and women of the Uniformed Services through the USO has been worth the intense effort by ACOA. It is invariably a rewarding experience, and there’s nothing like hearing a “Thank you, that’s the first hot dog I’ve had in over a year” from a tired soldier to make your day. ACOA will continue to serve at the Atlanta USO, and if you’re ever in the airport on the third Saturday of the month, come by and say hello to a fellow PHS officer behind the USO food counter.

ACOA Past Presidents Present PHS Challenge Coins to the Atlanta USO

Major General Barbero thanks the USO and its volunteers for their support.

LCDR Christine Olson and CAPT Pam Ching serve smiles and snacks while watching the baggage of soldiers resting inside at the USO.

LT Letia Boseman serves up hot Lasagna in a kitchen overflowing with donations.

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

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