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 4                                                                                              December 2011


President's Column

Calendar of Events

1. 2012 ACOA Executive Committee Election Results
2. Get your PHS Pride items in time for the Holidays!
3. Request for Volunteers to Staff USO Holiday Event. Donations welcomed!
4. The 2012 Anchor and Caduceus Dinner – Ticket Information & Call for Auction Items
5. December Lunch and Learn: The 2011 ACOA Year-in-Brief & Winter Social
6. Annual Physical Fitness Testing

1. Reflections from Haiti Reconstruction Efforts; Two Years Later
2. Tips for Eating Healthy and Staying Fit this Holiday Season
3. ACOA Participants Help Build a House with Habitat for Humanity
4. Oh, Baby!
5. ACOA Volunteers Find Meal Delivery for Project Open Hand Rewarding
6. VA Clinic Expanding into Fort McPherson

President's Column

Chris Fletcher, LT, USPHS, ACOA President

Fellow officers and ACOA members, I hope you have all had a successful year. As this year winds down, ACOA is still busy behind the scenes. I am sure you have seen the announcements on the listserv for the sale of tickets to the 2012 Anchor and Caduceus Dinner. I want to thank those of you who have already purchased tickets and encourage those of you who have not to get your tickets before we sell out! Last year, this event was moved to a new location, the Druid Hills Golf Club, which helped bring record attendance. We hope to have high attendance again this year as we welcome guest speaker RADM Lushniak. ACOA is listening to the comments we received from the survey after the dinner last year. This year, as the announcements indicate, we will still have a speaker but we are planning to allow ample time for conversation, camaraderie, and dancing. We look forward to the return of the Hansen-Karell Band for more great music this year!

The ACOA Executive Committee is excited to announce that we have added Mission and Vision statements. The Mission and Vision statements closely parallel that of the Commissioned Officers Association of which we are a branch. The ACOA Mission and Vision statements can be found here on the ACOA website. These statements are intended to provide guidance and direction as our branch continues to grow, and to give back to our members, other Atlanta officers, and to the community.

Another accomplishment of the 2011 Executive Committee is the establishment of the ACOA Officer of the Year Award. As one of the largest COA branches, ACOA has many hard working volunteers and we now have the ability to recognize one of those outstanding volunteers each year. ACOA sent a call for nominations on the listserv, which includes details on how to nominate an officer or yourself. Please take the time to recognize an officer who is deserving of this local recognition for their contribution to the ACOA mission.

By now you should have seen the announcement of the 2012 ACOA Executive Committee. I would like to congratulate the incoming Executive Committee members and extend a sincere thank you to the 2011 Executive Committee. Without the time and effort volunteered by the Executive Committee members each year, ACOA would not function. Their dedicated behind the scenes work keeps the gears of ACOA well oiled and operating smoothly.

Further, regarding the transition of the Executive Committee, I am saddened to report CDR Eddie Weiss will be unable to complete his term as President in 2012 and Past President in 2013. Due to personal matters, CDR Weiss has had to resign his position with ACOA. I would like to thank CDR Weiss for his hard work as Vice President this year and for his 3 years serving ACOA as Co-Chair of the Community Service committee. CDR Weiss is a shining star inside the ACOA organization and his presence will truly be missed.

So, what does this mean for ACOA? According to our Bylaws, in Article Six: Elections, paragraph five:

After consultation with several ACOA Past Presidents and in following our Bylaws, the incoming Vice President, LCDR Jamie Mutter will fill the roll as 2012 President. I think ACOA will be in good hands with LDCR Mutter at the helm. LCDR Mutter has served ACOA for many years now, as Secretary for two years, served on the Events Planning Committee, and many other behind the scenes activities that are too numerous to list. I will lend a helping hand as LCDR Mutter learns the role as President and I am confident that she will do an excellent job! Please join me in congratulation LCDR Mutter and supporting her in 2012!

Last, I would like to say thank you for the opportunity to serve you, the ACOA membership, this past year. The role of ACOA President is no small task and is filled with ups and downs. I have tried to continue to advance this organization by following in the footsteps of those before. While I am sad to leave my post as President, I take comfort in knowing ACOA is a little stronger than when I found it. I urge each of you to continue to find a way to be involved by volunteering to serve at ACOA events or to run for an elected position on the Executive Committee. I would also like to ask that you encourage your fellow officers who are not members of the Commissioned Officers Association to join, and also join ACOA. COA does tremendous work on our behalf, and the more USPHS officers there are on the COA members list, the stronger their voice will be. Have a great holiday season and I hope to see you at the Anchor and Caduceus dinner in January.


LT Chris Fletcher

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Calendar of Events

Community Service

Professional Development

Special Events

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1. 2012 ACOA Executive Committee Election Results

The 2012 ACOA Executive Committee was announced November 29 by Past President LCDR Jasen Kunz. Below is the outcome of this year’s election. Congratulations to our new Executive Committee!

*Vice President: LCDR Jamie Mutter, CDC

Secretary: LCDR Shane Davis, CDC

Treasurer: LCDR Anna Satcher Johnson, CDC

Members at Large:

LCDR Stacey Bosch, CDC

LCDR Mitesh A. Desai, CDC

LCDR Tchernavia A. Gregory, CDC

LCDR John Halpin, CDC

CDR Asim Jani, CDC

LCDR Juanika Mainor-Harper, CDC

LCDR Malaika Pepper Washington, CDC

LT Erin Grasso, CDC

After the planning retreat in January, ACOA will send a call for volunteers to help staff committees for 2012.

*LCDR Mutter will serve as President due to CDR Eddie Weiss’ resignation (see this issue’s President’s Column for more details).

2. Get your PHS Pride items in time for the Holidays!

PHS “pride” items, such as license plates, desk flags, t-shirt and other memorabilia make great gifts for fellow officers and coworkers alike. Get them now before they are all gone!

Visit the ACOA website’s Store Page for more details.

3. Request for Volunteers to Staff USO Holiday Event. Donations welcomed!

ACOA is in the process of preparing for our annual holiday event with USO. Several of our previous 2011 volunteers have already signed up to volunteer, but we still have slots available.

During the winter holiday season, the Atlanta USO located in Hartsfield-Jackson airport is particularly busy supporting service men and women leaving the field for R&R and returning to duty. On Saturday December 17th we will be supporting an important 24 hour holiday party. This party will be a lot like the monthly events that many of you have already participated in over the years.

ACOA volunteers will be staffing the USO suite. Staffing the USO suite includes managing the kitchen and serving food, watching luggage, and greeting service men and women. For this particular event, in addition to providing staff we are responsible for stocking the kitchen and preparing the majority of the food. We will be serving a full hot breakfast, lunch, and dinner for anywhere from 500 -1000 service men and women along with their families. Because of the magnitude of this event we are not only asking for volunteers but we also welcome your monetary donations. A donation as small as $5 would go a long way in helping us purchase supplies. Please email LCDR Jocelyn Patterson ( with questions about donations. We have officers conveniently located throughout Atlanta ready to receive donations.

As it relates to staffing, this activity is intended for USPHS officers. The goal is to have a minimum of 3 officers and an alternate for each shift. One person on the shift will be asked to be the point of contact for that shift’s set up and cleanup activities. The shifts are below.

Saturday, December 17th, 2011
Shift 1: 0000 – 0500 (12am – 5am)
Shift 2: 0500 – 0900 (5am – 9am)
Shift 3: 0900 – 1300 (9am – 1pm) – FULL
Shift 4: 1300 – 1700 (1pm – 5pm) – FULL
Shift 5: 1700 – 2800 (5pm -9pm)
Shift 6: 2800 – 0000 (9pm -12am)

Please email LCDR Jocelyn Patterson ( with the shift you would like to staff along with:
Phone (office and cell)

4. The 2012 Anchor and Caduceus Dinner – Ticket Information & Call for Auction Items

Join your fellow officers for an evening of cocktails, dinner, and dancing at the Atlanta Commissioned Officers Association’s Fifth Annual Anchor and Caduceus Dinner.

When: Saturday, January 28, 2011 6:30pm
Where: Druid Hills Golf Club – New Location! 740 Clifton Road, Atlanta, Georgia

The Keynote Speaker will be Rear Admiral Boris Lushniak, Deputy Surgeon General of the United States

Live Entertainment will be provided by the Hansen-Karell Band. There will also be door prizes and raffles during the evening.

For more information on this event, such as dinner choices, preferred attire for officers, and how to purchase tickets, please visit the ACOA Events Page.

The Anchor and Caduceus Dinner Raffle Subcommittee needs your help!

We are seeking prize donations for the silent auction at this year’s Anchor and Caduceus Dinner. All proceeds benefit the Commissioned Officers’ Foundation Dependent Scholarship.

Prizes can be anything fun -- so be creative!

  • Gift certificates to local restaurants, hotels, spas, golf courses
  • Tickets to sporting or theater events
  • Electronic items
  • Gift baskets or individual items from local retailers
  • Flying lessons, golf lessons, dance lessons

**All donations will be recognized in the Anchor and Caduceus Dinner program and the ACOA quarterly newsletter and contributors will receive a thank you letter from ACOA.

If you have a donation or are interested in soliciting donations, please contact LCDR Malaika Pepper Washington or LT Erin Grasso.

5. December Lunch and Learn: The 2011 ACOA Year-in-Brief & Winter Social

Presented by 2011 ACOA President, LT Chris Fletcher

At the December Lunch and Learn, ACOA will hold its end of the year review, the presentation of your newly elected ACOA Executive Committee, and back by popular demand…

The Annual Cookie Exchange!

When: Thursday, 15 December 2011, 11:30 am - 1:00 pm
Where: CDC, Chamblee Campus, Building 106, Room 1A

Lunch will be provided on a first come, first served basis

Share your baking skills and learn about the culinary skills of your fellow officers! Everyone is encouraged to bring in one dozen of your favorite treats. Be elaborate or keep it simple. Although not required, feel free to bring your recipes in to share!

For non-CDC/ATSDR Officers attending, please RSVP with LT Brek Steele at to assist with CDC security processing.

6. Annual Physical Fitness Testing

Make sure you APFT is up-to-date for the 2012 Promotion Cycle
When: Wednesday, December 14, 2:00 - 4:00 pm
Where: Royball Fitness Center

Spaces are limited, so RSVP with LCDR Shane Davis ( ASAP to reserve your space. In your email please provide your name and agency.
* If you are a CDC employee, you must be registered with the lifestyles center to participate. If you are not registered, complete the registration process prior to the event. Registration information is available at

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Reflections from Haiti Reconstruction Efforts; Two Years Later
Contributed by CDR Ezra J. Barzilay

It is hard to believe that it’s been nearly two years since January 12, 2010, the day that a 7.0 magnitude earthquake devastated Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. In the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, over 500,000 Haitians were injured or died; 1.6 million found themselves internally displaced (known as IDPs) and living in makeshift camps in Port-au-Prince (PauP), Leogane, Jacmel and other cities around the country. The already fragile Haitian public health infrastructure was unable to cope with the magnitude of the disaster and nearly collapsed in the immediate days post event.

Forward ten months to October 2010, and Haiti suffers a cholera outbreak of unprecedented proportions, affecting to date another 500,000 Haitians and killing nearly 7,000.

Since the first request for assistance from the CDC from the Haitian Ministry of Health, USPHS officers and civilians have worked tirelessly in support of Haiti relief efforts in every capacity imaginable.

In the early days after the earthquake, USPHS commissioned officers were deployed alongside Department of Defense colleagues to support numerous missions and activities, including: repatriation activities out of Homestead Air Reserve Base as well as Orlando and Miami international airports; the provision of case management support for Haitian nationals evacuated to Florida and Georgia for medical care; the execution of post-disaster assessments and mortality surveys, to determine water and sanitation access as well as general health priorities; the provision of emergency medical care aboard the USS Bataan and the USS Comfort, to name but a few.

I deployed to Haiti in April of 2010, to lead the post-earthquake surveillance activities. As expected, the days were very long, and the work was hard. Those of us deployed within the first six months after the earthquake stayed in tents set up on the US embassy grounds, alongside 300 or so members of the DoD’s Joint Task Force Haiti. The day would begin around 0545 (simply because the temperature became unbearable) and we were in the tent by 0600, followed by a quick breakfast with the team, and check-in with the day's assignments; after that it was off to the National Laboratory, the Ministry of Public Health, or to visit the IDP camps.

The briefings that I had received about working in post-earthquake Haiti were far from the reality that I experienced in Port-au-Prince; tons of rubble, dirt, collapsed buildings, and more tent-cities surrounded by puddles of sewage and standing water everywhere. There were naked children, goats, hogs roaming and rummaging through the piles of dirt and rubble.

Right after the earthquake, structural engineers from the U.S. as well as from several international NGOs, canvassed the city and declared each building in PauP as Green (livable immediately), Yellow (livable after structural repairs) and Red (must be demolished, not livable under any condition). Interestingly, 40% of all buildings still standing in PauP after the earthquake were deemed "Green", yet less than 5% of these houses were occupied, because the occupant of these houses had lost their jobs and could no longer afford the rent.

By October 2010, the immediate response efforts had slowed and the focus shifted to reconstruction efforts. The pace quickened once the cholera epidemic was announced and once again, the USPHS stepped up to Haiti’s call for help. Alongside several officers and CDC civilians, I re-deployed to Haiti. Even though the signs of improvement were obvious, there was still much more to be done. It is estimated that only 2% of the hundreds of thousand tons of rubble that were generated had been cleaned up. This time, our objective was to conduct institutional assessments, develop a cholera medical treatment protocol and training, coordinate key water and sanitation activities, all in partnership with the Haitian Ministry of Health, as well as national NGOs and international partners.

Following the post-disaster, emergency response phase, the long and slow process of reconstruction began. Led by a cadre of CDC personnel in Atlanta and out of the CDC office in Haiti, the public health reconstruction efforts have focused around three pillars: human resources, surveillance, and laboratory strengthening. Over 300 CDC staff, including a strong representation of USPHS officers, have provided technical assistance to the reconstruction efforts. Certainly the road to rebuilding the health and public health sectors in Haiti is going to be arduous; CDC and the USPHS will continue to provide their support, in every way possible.

Building damaged by the January 12, 2010 earthquake

Building damaged by the January 12, 2010 earthquake

Building damaged by the January 12, 2010 earthquake

View of downtown Port-au-Prince Haiti, showing the impact of the January 12, 2010 earthquake

View of downtown Port-au-Prince Haiti, showing the impact of the January 12, 2010 earthquake

A sign above a temporary settlement, appealing for help.

Internally Displaced Persons’ camp site

Internally Displaced Persons’ camp site

Ministry of Health building, destroyed by the January 12, 2010 earthquake

Ministry of Health building, destroyed by the January 12, 2010 earthquake

Photo of the presidential palace, seat of the Haitian government, destroyed by the January 12, 2010 earthquake

Street lined with rubble, in Port-au-Prince

Street lined with rubble, in Port-au-Prince

Colorful and artfully decorated “taptap” minivans, the primary mode of public transportation in Port-au-Prince.
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Tips for Eating Healthy and Staying Fit this Holiday Season

ACOA hopes that everyone has a safe and enjoyable holiday season. Let us all be reminded of the ways to eat healthy and stay fit this season. Here are some excerpts from past issues of The Signal that provide useful information on this topic.

Happy (Healthy) Holidays: Healthy Holiday Survival Guide
Originally submitted by Marisa Moore, RD, LD in The Signal, December 2007, Vol 17, Issue 6

The holidays are a time to relax and enjoy family, friends and great food! All of that socializing can lead to overeating, and to top it off, you may not be as physically active this time of year.

Here are some easy, calorie trimming tricks to use in the kitchen both during the holidays and every day.

  • Substitute two egg whites for a whole egg in your recipes for custards, puddings and cakes.
  • Use 3 Tbsp cocoa powder + 1 Tbsp canola oil for baking chocolate to limit saturated fat.
  • Substitute applesauce for half the oil, margarine or butter in muffin and quick bread mixes.
  • Add dried cherries, cranberries, raisins or nuts to cookies instead of chocolate chips.
  • Try a sugar substitute for half or all of the sugar in dessert recipes.
  • Use non-fat yogurt or fat-free sour cream as the base for a great vegetable dip.
  • Try reduced fat cheese in your macaroni and cheese or other casserole style dishes.

In some cases, you don’t have any control over what’s being served for dinner; however, you always have control over how much you eat. So even if you indulge in the seasonal treats that come your way, help manage the outcome with these tips:

  • Never arrive at the party hungry. Snack on high fiber cereal, nuts, or low fat cheese before the party. The longer you go without eating before the meal, the more likely you are to overeat.
  • Start your holiday meal small with vegetables and add a couple slices of lean turkey breast.
  • Alcohol lowers inhibitions and may encourage overeating. It also adds calories. In fact, 6 oz. of egg nog packs an amazing 350 calories! Try sparkling water with lime to be festive without the added calories.
  • Conversation is calorie-free! Spend more time mingling and less time at the buffet.

Over the next few weeks, your co-workers will bring in all kinds of treats in an effort to spread holiday cheer. Just don’t let their attempts to spread cheer spread a little more of you. It’s okay to indulge but try not to over-do it.

  • Share a brownie with an office mate.
  • If you make treats for the family or a school function, bring the leftovers to work to share.
  • Work out before work or at lunch if you can’t fit it in due to holiday shopping or social events.
  • Bring a healthy dish to the party.

No matter what changes over the next few weeks…always keep moving!

  • Dance at the party instead of holding up the wall.
  • Make your trip to the mall a part of your exercise program. Take advantage of outlet and indoor malls that require you to walk from store-to-store.
  • Make physical activity a family affair. Exercising together teaches children that activity is just as important as family meals.

Healthy Holidays: 'Tis the Season to Stay Active!
Originally Submitted by Lauren Williams, CDC Healthy Lifestyles in The Signal, December 2006, Vol 16, Issue 6

We all know how busy the holidays can be. With all of the shopping that needs to be done and parties to attend, we are bound to face a great deal of stress and a few opportunities for overeating. By making sure you include some form of physical activity into your day, you can help counteract the effects of holiday eating and stress.

I would like to offer some tips for staying healthy and active during the holiday season.

Enlist a friend to exercise with you. By exercising with a friend, you may find exercise to be more enjoyable and may find it easier to stick with your exercise plan. Being accountable to someone else may also help you be more consistent with exercising.

Prioritize your time. If you have a hard time sticking with an exercise program or making time for exercise, you may need to formally schedule it into your day. Just as you schedule meetings and other important events, put it on your daily calendar.

Try an exercise video. Videos are inexpensive and very useful when you don’t feel like going out to exercise. You can find a video for almost any form of exercise and for any level of fitness.

Relieve stress with stretching or yoga. The stress of the holiday season can take its toll on us – both mentally and physically. Relax your body and mind by taking a yoga class, or if you cannot make it to a class, take at least 15 minutes for yourself to stretch and de-stress. Make sure you relax your mind while you focus on stretching the entire body.

Create new traditions with family and friends. Instead of holiday food and beverage being the center of your celebration, invite your friends and family to go on a day hike at Stone Mountain, or head to Centennial Olympic Park for outdoor ice skating. If your celebration must include food, try taking a walk or playing a game of touch football afterwards.

Exercise for energy. In addition to the stress that can come with the holidays, we can also become physically worn down from all of the events of the season. Instead of loading up on caffeine to get you through the day, try exercising to give you needed energy.

Drink plenty of water. Dehydration can have many negative effects on your body. Being even slightly dehydrated can not only lead to fatigue, but can also affect the body’s ability to regulate body heat.

Anticipate roadblocks and make a plan for coping with them. There may be days when you don’t eat so well and/or you don’t have time to exercise. Don’t let a slip in your diet and exercise plan keep you from staying on track. Promise yourself that you’ll do better tomorrow.

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ACOA Participants Help Build a House with Habitat for Humanity
Contributed by LCDR Sylvera Demas and LCDR Tracie Gardner

On a sunny Saturday in September, eight Atlanta-based PHS officers participated in a build for Habitat for Humanity. This is the sixth consecutive year, and the second build in 2011, that the Atlanta Commissioned Officers Association has sponsored community service activities for Habitat. Each house is built over seven consecutive Saturdays with as many as 35 volunteers a day. This year ACOA officers participated in Day 4 of the build. Day 4 activities included: shingling the roof, installation of exterior siding, caulking all windows and doors (inside and out), and painting the interior and exterior of the house including the siding, foundation and window trim.

Volunteers began arriving at 7:30 a.m. and worked until approximately 4:00 p.m. under the supervision of a Habitat for Humanity house leader. It was a very busy day, but it was also extremely rewarding. Breakfast items and snacks were provided by the Atlanta Commissioned Officers Association. Volunteers were thrilled to have the opportunity to work alongside the homeowner and her children in completing Day 4 tasks. By the afternoon, many commented on the noticeable changes that took place in just a few hours. In addition to the many volunteer groups that participated in Saturday’s Habitat build, a National Public Radio (NPR) reporter was also present and solicited interviews from several volunteers, including LCDR Sylvera Demas and LCDR Tracie Gardner of ACOA.

ACOA plans to continue sponsoring community service activities with Habitat for Humanity. Great job everyone! We look forward to seeing you again at the next event.

For more information about Atlanta Habitat for Humanity, visit their website at

CAPT Theresa Harrington helping cut wood

CAPT (Ret.) Charles (Chad) Helmick painting

CAPT Walter Holt taking a quick rest after working on roof

ACOA volunteers during lunch time: First row L to R: CAPT Theresa Harrington, LT Bryan Christensen, CAPT Walter Holt; Second row L to R: LCDR Erin Kennedy, LCDR Sylvera Demas, CAPT (ret) Charles (Chad) Helmick; Third row L to R: LCDR Sherry Burrer, LCDR Tracie Gardner

ACOA volunteers take pride in their work at the end of the day: Front row L to R: CAPT Theresa Harrington, LCDR Sherry Burrer, LCDR Erin Kennedy, LCDR Sylvera Demas; Back row L to R: LT Bryan Christensen, CAPT (Ret.) Charles (Chad) Helmick, LCDR Tracie Gardner (CAPT Walter Holt not pictured)

LCDR Sherry Burrer preparing to paint

LCDR Sherry Burrer painting the outside of the house

LCDR Sylvera Demas painting outside the house

LCDR Sylvera Demas laying shingles

LCDR Tracie Gardner shingling the roof

LCDR Erin Kennedy caulking

LCDR Sylvera Demas & Tracie Gardner talking with NPR reporter

LT Bryan Christensen installing inside door
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Oh, Baby!
Contributed by an anonymous ACOA member

'Twas late in 2010 when a most curious trend began. ACOA Executive Committee members were suddenly having newborn babies, you see. What are trained public health experts to do in this situation? Of course we did what we do best so we launched an outbreak investigation!

After toiling and debating and much consternation, we finally concurred on a case definition. “Becoming a new parent” was defined first and foremost as having a newborn living under one’s roof. But friends that was not the only thing, one must have at least one more symptom to make it into the parenting ring: 1) much discussion of this new tax deduction, 2) markedly less sleep due to baby’s nighttime milk consumption , and 3) alarmed amazement at the tiny human body’s capacity for spit-up and poop production.

Now it was time to put our epidemiology skills in motion. We counted up the number of Executive Committee members. Thirteen! We counted up the number that met our case definition. Five! That’s nearly 40%, an outbreak by even the most conservative designation.

This lead to even more fancy figurin’ that revealed an interesting point to highlight in bold. The Committee’s Environmental Health Officers were more likely to be new parents than officers in other categories by nearly 10-fold! While a Health Services Officer and a Medical Officer tried to stem that tide, it was of no use because 3 out of 4 EHOs took the parenting dive.

We searched and sought for a plausible explanation for why so many EHOs met our case definition. The EHO CPO did not provide a comment for this report. But if we had actually asked him for one, “This is a brilliant recruiting effort to increase our EHO ranks” we are certain would be his retort! Or perhaps there might be something in the water where the ACOA Execs cavort.

Alas, this tale we must now close to get it to press for ACOA dissemination. We can only offer the evidence; you must each ponder carefully to reach your own conclusion. We do, however, offer this word of advice to all the incoming ACOA Executive Committee members: drink the water at your own risk!

Congratulations to 2011 ACOA EC members LCDR Jamie Mutter, CDR Eddie Weiss, LT Danielle Mills, LT Chris Fletcher and LCDR Jasen Kunz on your little bundles of joy!

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ACOA Volunteers Find Meal Delivery for Project Open Hand Rewarding
Contributed by LCDR Emily Jentes and LCDR Tegan Boehmer

On Saturday, October 1, 2011, 16 USPHS officers and five USPHS family members from the Atlanta Commissioned Officers Association (ACOA) delivered meals for Project Open Hand (POH). Approximately 700 individuals volunteer at POH each week to provide 4,500 meals daily to Atlanta-area residents with special nutritional needs.

After receiving instructions from POH staff, ACOA volunteers split into 11 routes delivering meals to approximately 70 people. The deliveries usually contained lunch and dinner for two days and in some cases provided the only meals for the clients over the weekend. 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. CDR Asim Jani summed up the event well when he stated, “I really enjoyed being part of such an organized process that does so much good for so many people and would certainly volunteer again when time permits or such events are planned. I felt that this event had a positive impact by providing nutrition to vulnerable disabled members of the community, helping the greater community effort to ensure food security and empowering community-based organizations such as POH through a commitment to service by PHS officers.”

ACOA officers look forward to volunteering with POH again in the spring. To learn more about POH or to volunteer on your own, please visit

LCDR Daisy Christensen double checks the packed meals to make sure that everything is ready to go.

LCDR Ben Silk gets ready for deliveries with his daughter, Vivian.

Larry Shelley, CAPT Gail Stennies, CDR Asim Jani, Arjun Jani, and Smruti Jani enjoy the opportunity to volunteer with their friends and family.

CAPT Ruth Jiles and CAPT Monina Klevens are ready to hit the road.

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VA Clinic Expanding into Fort McPherson
Contributed by CAPT Joseph D. Little

The US Department of Veterans Affairs is planning to open a new medical clinic on the grounds of the now closed Fort McPherson, located in East Point, GA. The new VA clinic will consist of six buildings on ten acres of the former Fort McPherson property. The VA will spend $40 million on renovations to create a healthcare campus that will expand medical services for veterans, and relieve some of the pressure on other Atlanta metro area clinics that now serve them. Medical services will include primary care, mental health, dental, laboratory, radiology, and audiology. An eye care center may be added at later point in time. The new VA clinic is set to open in August, 2012.

Fort McPherson was a US Army military base and was the headquarters for the US Army Installation Management Command, Southeast Region; US Army Forces Command; US Army Reserve Command; and US Army Central Command. As a result of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) commission recommendation, Fort McPherson was officially closed down September 15, 2011. Other redevelopment plans on the post will include a science and technology research park, a mixed use retail area, a historic district, residential housing, and 150 acres of green space.

Some brief history:

Fort McPherson sits on 487 acres in East Point, GA, located about four miles southwest of the city of Atlanta. The site was officially named Fort McPherson by the US Army in 1885, and was named after Major General James Birdseye McPherson. During the Civil War, McPherson participated in the battles of Jackson and Vicksburg earning promotion to brigadier general. He was killed in 1864 while on a reconnaissance patrol during the battle of Atlanta.

The precursor to Fort McPherson was a post located in west Atlanta on the grounds where Spelman College is now located. This post was referred to as McPherson Barracks, and was used from 1867 to 1881 by Union troops occupying Atlanta during the reconstruction period following the Civil War. The McPherson Barracks was closed in 1881 and the property was sold. In 1885, property for a new post was purchased, and Fort McPherson was constructed in this new location.

During the Spanish American War in 1898, Fort McPherson was used as a recruit training center, a prisoner of war (POW) facility, and a general hospital. The original post hospital was built between 1886 and 1889. During World War I, the fort was used as an internment camp for German POWs, a base hospital, and an officer’s training camp. The hospital had a capacity of 2400 beds, and over 10,000 patients were admitted between Aug. 1917 and Dec. 1918. During World War I, the hospital was so important that a senior ranking medical officer commanded the post. During World War II, the activities at Fort McPherson were greatly expanded to include a major hospital center, a general depot, and a processing center for the entry of new recruits into the service. Following the conclusion of World War II, Fort McPherson was used as a major separation center for roughly 200,000 returning service men. In 1977, the hospital became a clinic, and the majority of the building became administrative space.

Front Gate, Fort McPherson, Ga taken 2008 (source: Wikipedia)

The old Lee Street gate of Fort McPherson (source: Fort McPherson via The Georgia Encyclopedia)

Historical photograph of the entrance to the McPherson barracks (souce: the Army in Atlanta Museum via The Georgia Encyclopedia)

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For comments about the newsletter please contact The Signal editor,
CDR Lori Hall.

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