The Signal  Newsletter

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

Vol 20, Issue 4                                                                                              December 2010


President's Column

Calendar of Events

1. USPHS Career Development Training Courses

1. ACOA Volunteers at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta
2. ACOA Volunteers at Tapestry Community Garden
3. ACOA Participates in Helping to Build a House with "Habitat for Humanity!"
4. ACOA Volunteers Find Meal Delivery for Project Open Hand Rewarding

President's Column

Jasen Kunz, LT, USPHS, ACOA President

It is hard to believe the New Year is just around the corner, and with that comes the ACOA Executive Committee (EC) transition. The 2011 EC is a mix of veterans and new officers which should make for a dynamic combination capable of hitting the ground running. Included in the 2011 EC is your new ACOA president, LT Chris Fletcher, who spent the last year learning the job inside and out as the ACOA vice president. LT Fletcher is a good friend and dedicated officer who has proven he is up for the challenge of running ACOA. I am continually impressed by his ability to manage multiple priorities and his strong understanding of ACOA’s complicated finances. It is with sadness, but complete confidence I turn the reigns over to him and begin drawing my ACOA pension; I wish.

Hold on to your covers, ACOA will host the Fourth Annual Atlanta Area Anchor and Caduceus Dinner at Anthony’s in Buckhead on January 28th, the most important date in 2011 for Atlanta area officers. We take special pride in announcing that VADM Richard H. Carmona, M.D., M.P.H., FACS, 17th Surgeon General of the United States (2002-2006) will be our keynote speaker. I am also incredibly excited to announce ACOA will be honoring former Chief of Staff, acting Deputy Surgeon General and long time ACOA member, RADM Robert Williams. The dinner is promising to be more entertaining and elegant than ever before and is the event to attend. Please note this dinner is on a Friday night to accommodate our VIP’s demanding schedule so please plan accordingly.

Finally, I would like to point out ACOA had a record number of officers run for the 2011 EC. I personally feel this is attributed to an increased awareness of the importance of officership, but also a testament to the strength of the organization in general. ACOA continues to grow at a rapid pace providing more opportunities for Atlanta area officers to get involved. Please direct your attention to the newly revamped ACOA website and the traditional listserv for opportunities to support your local COA branch in 2011. My parting words are to get out there and support your Atlanta area officers. I think you just might have some fun and the networks you create will be invaluable.


LT Jasen Kunz

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Calendar of Events

The ACOA Fourth Annual Anchor and Caduceus Dinner
Friday, January 28, 2011.
The Fourth Annual Anchor and Caduceus Dinner will be held at Anthony's Restaurant in Buckhead. The Keynote Speaker will be the 17th Surgeon General of the United States (2002-2006), VADM Richard Carmona, M.D., M.P.H., FACS and the Honoree will be the former Chief of Staff, acting Deputy Surgeon General and long time ACOA member, RADM Robert Williams.

Details can be found at the Events section of the ACOA website.

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USPHS Career Development Training Courses

Officer Basic Course:
The purpose of the Officer Basic Course (OBC) is to establish a standardized, highly reliable core of basic information, to inspire Corps officers and to establish an emotional bond to the service. It supports acquirement of competencies that officers need to begin their careers, with emphasis on officership and readiness. When officers complete the OBC, they have the foundation upon which to develop a career in the Public Health Service and meet the basic readiness requirements for deployment. Completion of this course meets eligibility requirements for awarding the Commissioned Corps Training Ribbon.

Provisional Officer Basic Course:
During the Provisional Officer Basic Course (POBC), officers will receive an introduction to the Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service. During this eight-week training course, emphasis is placed on the Corps as a uniformed service, military bearing and courtesy, career development, promotions, leave, compensation, awards, resource utilization, and readiness and deployment. This course is available to a officer who are not eligible to attend the residential Officer Basic Course and did not complete the OBC precursor; BOTC and IOTC. Officers successfully completing this course are eligible to earn the Commissioned Corps Training Ribbon.

Officer Mid-Level Course:
The Officer Mid-Level Course (OMC) is designed to prepare the Commissioned Officer for successful assignments as an officer and leader in a dynamic public health environment. It builds on the foundations set forth in the Officer Basic Course and prepares the officers with knowledge, disposition, and skills necessary to serve as mid-level officers and the future leaders of the United States Public Health Service.

Officer Advanced Course:
All officers will be eligible for the Officer Advanced Course (OAC), which is designed to build future Corps leaders. The Training and Career Development Steering Committee and COTA Cadre are coordinating with Corps leadership to establish criteria and curriculum for OAC which will train Corps officers in advanced leadership matters.

Officer Executive Course:
The Officer Executive Course (OEC) will be offered to selected senior executive officers. The Training and Career Development Steering Committee and COTA Cadre are working with Corps leadership to identify specific qualification guidelines and to establish the curriculum for OAC which will train Corps officers in executive leadership matters.

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ACOA Volunteers at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta

The Atlanta Commissioned Officer Association volunteered to bring an art camp experience to patients and families at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite on Tuesday August 31, 2010. Six PHS officers helped children make arts and crafts which could be used to decorate their rooms as well as for their personal use. These included pillowcases, trucker hats, tote bags, puppets, and wearable buttons. There was a great turnout with about 15 families participating in the camp. Camp Children’s volunteers included LCDR Adriane Niare (lead), LCDR Tchernavia Gregory (co-lead), LT LaShonda Roberson, CDR Theresa Harrington, LCDR Brian Harcourt, LT Cria Perrine, and LCDR Elissa Meites. LCDR Gregory was deployed to Louisiana in response to the Gulf Coast Oil Spill on the day of the camp and worked extra hard in the days leading up to it to make the day special. LT Roberson filled in as co-lead on the day of the project in light of LCDR Gregory’s deployment. This was the third year that ACOA volunteers have organized a camp experience for hospitalized children and their families and, as usual, it was very rewarding. We look forward working with Camp Children’s again next year!

ACOA Volunteers at Tapestry Community Garden

On a crisp and clear October morning, 10 USPHS officers and 2 other volunteers met with Fred Conrad, the Community Garden Coordinator for the Atlanta Community Food Bank (ACFB) to volunteer at the Tapestry Community Garden in Atlanta, GA.

ACFB was founded in 1979, and currently distributes nearly two million pounds of food each month to more than 700 nonprofit partner agencies in 38 counties in Metro Atlanta and North Georgia ( ACFB not only supports food pantries, community kitchens and childcare centers, but also operates several community projects to aid local agencies in community building, technical assistance, and advocacy efforts. One example, is the Community Gardens Project, which supports more than 150 gardens in the Atlanta area by providing gardening expertise, volunteer help, tools and seeds. The aim of the Community Gardens Project is to bring neighbors together by empowering people to supplement their food by growing it themselves. The benefits of community gardening include social interaction, beautifying neighborhoods, production of nutritious foods, and cost-saving through spending less on food. ACOA volunteers helped with preparing new plots for planting at the Tapestry Community Garden.

Tapestry Community Garden is a new community garden located in the Ormewood Park neighborhood, near Grant Park and Zoo Atlanta. ACOA volunteers spent the morning doing maintenance in and around the garden, transporting compost to new plots, removing rocks and debris from newly planted areas, and digging holes/placing posts to demarcate plots. It was a beautiful morning – and we had a productive, enjoyable time assisting with the tasks at hand and learning from Fred about neighborhood history, gardening, and the ACFB.

From Left to Right in photo: 1 Gregory, Tchernavia (Navia) LCDR; 2 Gershman, Mark CAPT; 3 Iskander, John CDR; 4 Verani, Jennifer LCDR; 5 Thomas, Jacqueline CDR; 6 Thomas, Peter LCDR; 7 Blanck, Heidi CDR; 8 Reynolds, Meredith CDR; 9 Goodman, Alyson LT; 10 Perrine, Cria LT;
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ACOA Participates in Helping to Build a House with "Habitat for Humanity!"
Contributed by Emily Jentes

On Saturday, September 25, 12 Atlanta-based PHS officers assisted Habitat for Humanity in building a home. The officers attended on Day 7 of the project providing assistance in building for the fifth year in a row. Each house is built over seven consecutive Saturdays with as many as 35 volunteers. Participating on Day 7 was truly exciting. We assisted in completing remaining tasks which included: touch up interior painting, raking and shoveling, laying sod, planting trees, and completing landscaping around the house. The new owner was thrilled with the results and was quite happy when the house was dedicated in the early afternoon.

Volunteers began arriving at 7:00 a.m. and worked until approximately 12:30 p.m., under the supervision of a Habitat for Humanity house leader, Caleb Starr. A continental breakfast, snacks, and lunch were provided by the Atlanta Commissioned Officers Association. At the end of our workday, the house was dedicated with the Habitat for Humanity personnel, the owners’ church members, students, and other volunteers in attendance. Everyone involved agreed that it was quite difficult to lay sod, however it was a personally rewarding experience. Volunteers felt that ACOA should continue to sponsor other community service activities with Atlanta Habitat for Humanity, including possibly adding a second date to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity during the year.

For more information about Atlanta Habitat for Humanity, see Habitat for Humanity fact sheet, Habifacts.

Early morning photo before starting volunteering:
L to R: Pamela Ching, Sylvera Demas, Fuyuen Yip, Nora Lirette, Emily Jentes, Cria Perrine, Joseph Little, Latoria Jordan, Walter Holt, Sye Bennefield, Rashid Njai

Working hard:
Rashid Njai and Latoria Jordan rake the rocks from the front yard before laying the sod.

Moving rocks:
Sylvera Demas, Theresa Harrington, Joseph Little, and Walter Holt ready the yard for sod

After volunteering the team regrouped for another ACOA photo
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ACOA Volunteers Find Meal Delivery for Project Open Hand Rewarding

On Sunday, October 17, 2010, 19 USPHS officers from the Atlanta Commissioned Officers Association (ACOA) and their families delivered meals for Project Open Hand. The mission of Project Open Hand is to eliminate nutrition-sensitive diseases through a combination of dietary education and delivery of nutritionally balanced meals. Project Open Hand enlists the services of approximately 700 volunteers each week to provide 4,500 meals daily to Atlanta-area residents with special nutritional needs.

ACOA volunteers followed detailed driving routes through Atlanta neighborhoods to deliver meals to approximately 130 people. The deliveries usually contained lunch and dinner for two days, and also often included milk or a nutritional supplement such as Ensure. Volunteer drivers play an especially important role to the organization, since most meal recipients are homebound and unable to pick up their meals.

ACOA officers found the experience rewarding, and are excited about participating in future volunteer opportunities with the organization. Volunteers were asked to share stories and thoughts via email. CAPT Ruth Jiles was paired up with LCDR Deborah Dee and her daughter Olivia. Both officers enjoyed getting to know one another during the delivery route and CAPT Jiles stated that “it was rewarding to see a young teenager give up her Sunday morning to participate in a community service activity.” CDR Kathy Slawson, who delivered meals with LT Dawn Arlotta, reflected upon their interaction with community members at a public housing unit, “When you engage with people and spend a little time outside your inner circle, you begin a transformation.”

The ACOA Community Service Committee and Project Open Hand thank all the volunteers for their service. To learn more about Project Open Hand or to volunteer on your own, please visit

With delivery routes in hand, ACOA volunteers patiently wait to head out the door.

LT Dawn Arlotta (left) and CDR Kathy Slawson (right) made a great team.

CDR Januett Smith-George (left) and CDR Edecia Richards (right) are ready to hit the road.

LT LaShonda Roberson (center) shared the experience with her son Jaylen (left), daughter Liala (not shown) and friend CDR Adriane Niare (right).

LT Ben Silk and CDR Lauri Hicks teamed up to deliver meals!

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

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