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 1                                                                                              February / March 2009


Calendar of Events

1. Volunteers Needed for USO (United Service Organizations)
2. Surgeon General's 5K Run/Walk T-Shirt Design Contest
3. An Invitation to Join “The Surgeon General’s Own”
4. Thank You Letters for All of Our 2008 Volunteers
5. Atlanta COA Roadside Cleanup
6. ACOA Uniform Store
7. PHS Flag Sales
8. Annual Physical Fitness Test (APFT)

1. 2009 Assimilation Update and Overview
2. Serving at the USO – You Never Know What is Going to Happen
3. ACOA Golf Club Drive
4. Update on Uniform Changes Effective January 2009
5. ACOA Executive Committee Plans Activities for 2009

President's Column

Calendar of Events

Lunch and Learn. Thursday, February 19, 1130 to 1300, CDC, Koger Center, Columbia Bldg., Room 1064. Topic: Applying for Jobs at the CDC as a Commissioned Officer. Contact: LCDR Nicole Flowers. 770.488.5176.

Atlanta COA Roadside Cleanup. Saturday, February 28, 2009, 0930 to 1030; see full announcement below.

Volunteer at the USO. Saturdays, March 21 Shift #2 (1200 to 1500); April 18: Shift #1 (0900 to 1200); see full announcement below. Contact LT Nickels

Annual Physical Fitness Test. Saturday, March 21. Time: 0800. St. Pius High School Track. Contact:
RSVP by COB on Thursday, March 19. RSVP via email to CDR Edward Dieser.

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

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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, because of its strategic location in the world’s busiest airport, assists thousands and thousands of individuals 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. Shift 1 is from 0900 to 1200 and Shift 2 is from 1200 to 1500.

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

Saturday, March 21st Shift 2
Saturday, April 18th Shift 1
Saturday, May 16th Shift 1 and Shift 2
Saturday, June 20th 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 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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Surgeon General's 5K Run/Walk T-Shirt Design Contest

As the host branch of this year's symposium, ACOA is organizing the Surgeon General's 5K Run/Walk on Wednesday, June 3, 2009, as part of the upcoming 2009 USPHS Scientific and Training Symposium. Information on the Run/Walk is available on the Symposium Events page.

One of our responsibilities is to design the race t-shirt, and we want your help! We invite you to participate in the 5K Run/Walk t-shirt design contest!!! Designs submitted in Illustrator or Corel Design are preferred, though other formats, including paper drawings, will be accepted. All designs should include the date and the name of the race ("Surgeon General's 5K Run/Walk").

The winner of the t-shirt design contest will receive a race t-shirt, a desk top flag set and of course, the reward of everyone wearing your design!

Please submit all creations to CDR Edecia Richards and LT Andrea Smith by February 15, 2009!


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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 Bldg 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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Thank You Letters for All of Our 2008 Volunteers

Many thanks to all of you who volunteered for ACOA-sponsored activities in 2008!    

If you volunteered in 2008, you should have received a thank you letter from us within the last month.  It was sent via an e-mail with the letter attached as a PDF file. If you volunteered for an activity in 2008, but did not receive your thank you letter, please contact LCDR Lauren Zapata.  In the e-mail include your rank, name, agency, and the activity for which you volunteered. In addition, if you received a letter, but needs a correction made to it, please contact  LCDR Zapata.    

Thanks again for all you have done to make 2008 a success for ACOA!

CDR Danice Eaton  
2008 COA Branch President

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Atlanta COA Roadside Cleanup

·        Saturday, February 28, 2009, 0930 to 1030

·        Saturday, May 9, 2009, 0930 to 1030

·        Saturday, August 15, 2009, 0930 to 1030

·        Saturday, November 7, 2009, 0930 to 1030

Volunteers should meet at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (1450 Ponce De Leon Ave NE).  ACOA will supply garbage bags and orange safety vests.  Please do not forget your gloves to protect yourself from glass and other sharp objects you may come across. If possible, please wear a COA, PHS, CDC, ATSDR or other HHS t-shirt. Family members are also invited - the more the merrier!

If you are interested in volunteering, please contact LCDR Anna Satcher Johnson
at 404.639.6167.

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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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Annual Physical Fitness Test (APFT)

ACOA will administer a Commissioned Corps Annual Physical Fitness Test (APFT) quarterly with the next one on March 21, 2009. Each officer is responsible for (1) ensuring they are in good health and able to complete all events; (2) submitting their completed Physical Readiness Standards Report (PHS Form 7044) to Medical Affairs Branch and (3) entering their data on the CCRF web-site. You may use this APFT as a practice or for record. It takes approximately an hour for an officer to complete the three components of the APFT, which include: a review of the standards, push-ups, sit-ups or the side-bridge, and a 1.5 mile run/walk. All three components must be completed during the testing session to pass the APFT. For more information on the qualifying standards for the annual physical fitness test see the OFRD website.

Next APFT Schedule:
Date: Saturday, March 21, 2009
Time: 0800
Location: St. Pius High School Track
Contact: RSVP by COB on Thursday, March 19. RSVP via email to CDR Edward Dieser

***Please bring water and if desired a towel and a mat. Be sure you are well hydrated for the event.***

***Please note: APFTs will continue on a quarterly basis, so plan ahead to maintain your basic readiness***

CAPT Ralph O'Conner enjoys his sidebridge CDR Gail Williams providing encouragement during the sit-ups

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2009 Assimilation Update and Overview
Contributed by LCDR Nicole Flowers

ACOA sponsored an Assimilation Lunch & Learn on January 22, 2009 to provide critical assimilation and PHS career information to Atlanta-area Commissioned Corps (CC) officers. Assimilation is the process by which Reserve Corps officers are appointed into the Regular Corps, which is the career component of the CC. The 2009 OCCO Assimilation Board has been suspended until further notice, but eligible CC officers should have submitted their application packet and qualified applications accepted by OCCO will remain in the application pool in the event of future boards.

The speaker, CDR Ali Danner, former Assimilation Coordinator at CDC’s Commissioned Corps Personnel Office (OCCO), stated that ALL applications for the 2009 assimilation year were due to the Office of Commissioned Corps Operations (OCCO) by February 1, 2009 postmark date. Applications postmarked after that date will be returned to the Officer. He emphasized that most categories now have "application for assimilation" as one of their promotion benchmarks.

CDR Danner shared the benefits of becoming a Regular Corps officer, including possible promotion advantages and being eligible to become a Chief Professional Officer (CPO). He also shared the assimilation requirements, such as being Basic readiness qualified, and presented scenarios for officers at different phases in their careers and how this applies to the assimilation Lower and Higher boards. The presentation and handout resources are available at the ACOA website. Headquarters OCCO posts assimilation criteria and the assimilation package on their website.  You may also contact the CDC Commissioned Corps Personnel Office for consultation, 404.498.1800.

Strengthen Your PHS Career:

Be aware, at a minimum "applying for assimilation", even if you have not been assimilated, is a benchmark for most T-04/P-03 and above promotions.  All eligible officers were encouraged to submit their assimilation application by February 1, 2009 in order to be considered for review when Assimilation Review Boards resume.  Remember to indicate on your CV and officer’s statement that you have applied for assimilation. Furthermore, keep your “basic ready qualified” status and  medical history form up-to-date.

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Serving at the USO – You Never Know What is Going to Happen.
Contributed by  LT Jeremy “Bret” Nickels 

We had an excellent time serving at the Hartsfield Jackson United Service Organizations (HJ USO) on January 17, 2009.  The morning started off a little earlier than normal when the usual early shift of volunteers could not be present and Mary Lou Austin, grand puba (joke – manager) of the HJ USO, asked if we could fill in.  With some funds left over from the December USO Event, breakfast and lunch items were purchased and cooked during our shift.  Bacon and eggs were quite a hit – we easily finished all 5 dozen eggs and 5 pounds of bacon by 1000!  The soldiers also seemed to really appreciate the lasagna and home made Tomato Soup (compliments of Mrs. Spears)  as it was gone in less time then it took to make! 

CDR John Iskander mentioned that his most memorable moment of the day was the serviceman from Hawaii playing his ukulele while awaiting his flight.  There was also an air of excitement and anticipation over the upcoming inauguration and prospect of a new Commander in Chief.  CDR Kathy Slawson remarked about a family sending off their father, “We spoke with a serviceman whose wife and 4 children were waiting with him in the check-in line.  You could see that the family has been here before.  The children’s youth did not blind them to the fact that their father was going away again.”  We were humbled to see those young men and women sent off to be put in harm’s way. 

Throughout the day there was one Specialist who proved to be of great service to us.  SPC Eric Pearson was on his way from Iraq to his home in Virginia and had a 12-hour layover in Atlanta.  He was so anxious to get home he was willing to do anything to keep his mind otherwise occupied.  With his assistance, we organized the kitchen, swept the USO, and enjoyed delightful conversation.  His excitement was not for his material things he left behind or for the town in which he grew up.  He never even mentioned visiting his parents while at home.  He was focused on being home for his son’s first birthday!  SPC Pearson is pictured (far right) below, along with (from left to right) CDR Slawson, LT Nickels, CAPT O’Connor, CDR Tierney, and CDR Spears. 

We still have the following openings, March 21:  Shift #2 (1200 to 1500); April 18: Shift #1 (0900 to 1200); May 16:  Both Shifts; June 20:  Both Shifts.  This is an excellent way to give back to those who give so much for our great country!

CDR Kathy Slawson, LT Bret Nickels, CAPT Ralph O'connor, CDR Bruce Tierney, CDR Ross Spears, SPC Eric Pearson.

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ACOA Golf Club Drive
Contributed by LT Jasen Kunz

The Atlanta Commissioned Officer Association (ACOA) recently partnered with a local charitable group to collect golf supplies for our troops. The golf supplies, which included clubs, balls, and bags were collected to support recreational activities of the 48th Infantry Brigade of the Georgia Army National Guard recently deployed to Afghanistan. ACOA understands that the supplies will be distributed among the 48th’s six battalions stationed throughout Afghanistan.

ACOA collected approximately ten sets of golf clubs and 1000 golf balls from the Atlanta area. ACOA wants to thank Atlanta area Commissioned Officers and the CDC Golf League who responded very generously to the call for donations.

You are probably asking where these troops are going to play golf at in Afghanistan. Believe it or not there is a Jack Nicklaus golf course in Kabul, Afghanistan. Seriously, the troops are given a secure area in there deployed location for recreation activities, and the troops enjoy setting up mock golf courses.

Golf supplies being delivered to the 148th Support Battalion, 48 Brigade Combat Team of the Georgia Army National Guard.

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Update on Uniform Changes Effective January 2009
Contributed by CDR Bruce Tierney

Effective January 1, 2009 officers should be aware that the following uniform changes have taken place:

The Navy pullover sweater has become the only authorized sweater for routine wear by Commissioned officers. The Army pullover sweater AND the Army cardigan sweater that were formerly worn are no longer authorized for wear. A maternity cardigan sweater is still authorized for wear for pregnant officers and is still available from Navy uniform sources. This sweater is different from the formerly authorized Army cardigan sweater (see section 8-4.b of CC26.3.7)

The Navy sweater requires the use of a leather name patch. Instructions were originally published in PPM 07-014 but this PPM is not currently available in the electronic Commissioned Corps Issuance System (eCCIS). However the details for the leather nametag format may be found reprinted in the December 2008 Commissioned Corps E-Bulletin in the Uniform Q&A section.

Effective January 1, 2009 the BDU became a required uniform for all officers to own and maintain as noted in Section 6 of the recently released CC26.3.4 and CC26.3.5 (Note that on August 1, 2009 essentially all other PHS working uniforms will be withdrawn from the uniform inventory leaving the BDU as the primary working uniform for all future deployments and circumstances calling for a working uniform. The only other working uniform remaining will be the Coveralls which are currently limited only to very specific circumstances for wear).

Also effective January 1, 2009 the gold FMRB skill badge is the only one now authorized for wear. It replaces the previous pewter/silver version of the FMRB.

Officers should also be aware of the following additional recent changes:

The PHS patch on the BDU Utility Coat and Field Jacket has been made an official required component in CC26.3.7, Special Uniform Situations, Section 6-4.b(4) and 6-4.c(3).

The beret for female officers has officially been added to the Service and Working Khaki uniform for women as an optional item. There had been some confusion regarding this item in the past (See page 17 and 20 of CC26.3.5).

All other uniforms are still currently authorized for wear as of January 1, 2009, to include the Service Blue (“Salt and Pepper”), Winter Blue, Winter Working Blue and Working Khaki. However officers should be aware that effective August 1, 2009 these uniforms, along with several other uniforms and specific uniform items will be phased out and no longer authorized for wear as noted in PPM 08-020 .

All officers are encouraged to regularly review the home page of the Commissioned Corps Management Information System web site to watch for additional interim guidance and updates of Commission Corps Instructions as they become available.

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ACOA Executive Committee Plans Activities for 2009
Contributed by CDR Ross Spears

The ACOA Executive Committee (EC) held its annual Planning Meeting on Friday, January 26, 2009.  The EC met to plan for significant activities for the year, discuss key dates, budgets, and needed resources.  The meeting included presentations by the co-chairs of ACOA’s standing committees as well as the special committees formed by the EC to prepare for the national meeting in early June.  Highlights from the committees included:

  • A discussion of planned support for recruiting fairs
  • A renewed effort to expand local branch membership
  • Planned articles for both The Signal and Frontline
  • Numerous community service activities, including Habitat for Humanity, Café 458 and others
  • Dates and topics for this year’s Lunch and Learns
  • Plans for the Promotion Ceremony and a Fall Social

The special committees formed to support the national conference reported on their progress.  All groups have made significant headway with the conference still four months out.

Based on the results of the planning meeting, calls for volunteers will be issued regularly as needed by the committees.  The first call for volunteers for select committees and activities will be issued in early February.  Stay tuned.  This will be another exciting year with many opportunities for Atlanta area officers to serve.  On behalf of the EC, thanks in advance for your support!

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President's Column

D. Ross Spears, CDR, USPHS

This is the first in what ACOA hopes will be a regular feature of The Signal, the President’s column. The purpose of the column is to provide you as ACOA members an update on items of interest and to spotlight important areas of focus for the Branch. Calendar year 2009 is an exciting year for the Atlanta Branch in many respects. This column will help membership get a sense how each officer can support the Branch as it looks forward to the upcoming year.

As the new current President, it is my first duty to thank last year’s Executive Committee for their superb efforts. ACOA leadership held a variety of activities that included the first ever ACOA Anchor and Caduceus Dinner, a superbly orchestrated promotion ceremony, the largest number of community services projects ever conducted by the Branch, invaluable professional development activities such as the Lunch and Learns and APFTs, and ongoing communications support through The Signal. These 2008 activities gave officers of all ranks and OPDIV’s in the Atlanta area the opportunity to improve themselves, develop esprit de’ corps, and give back to the community and to our fellow Uniformed Services members. None of this would have been possible without the efforts of the Executive Committee to lead and coordinate these activities.

Many of the EC members were re-elected or returned to serve another year. Officers who were not able to return included CDR Robert Knowles (Treasurer), LCDR Shwana Coleman (Member-at-Large and Communications Co-Chair), LCDR Maleeka Glover (Member-at-Large and Professional Development Co-Chair), and CDR Ed Dieser (Member-at-Large and Communications Co-Chair). These officers provided outstanding service to the Branch. CDR Bruce Tierney completed his three year term as Vice-President/President/Past President. Bruce will be sorely missed by the Executive Committee, even though he continues to actively participate in Branch activities. He has set an example in dedication and leadership to us all. He leaves behind a grateful branch and some very big shoes to fill.

The 2009 Executive Committee includes returning members and new members. The new Executive Committee is very experienced and energetic, and I offer my welcome to the team. The 2009 Executive Committee is planning yet another exciting year. The Communications Committee will be working this year to improve The Signal and keep officers informed. The Community Service Committee will be planning yet another busy year of activities, including the popular USO service at Hartsfield-Jackson Airport. The Professional Development Committee will be hosting Lunch and Learns and other activities. The Program Subcommittee will be working to expand its support of area recruiting events. The Membership Committee will be looking at expanding Branch membership from area officers. Finally, and not least, the Special Projects Committee will be coordinating the Promotion Ceremony and the popular Fall Social, as well as other events.

This year, the National Conference will be held in Atlanta the first week in June. This offers many exciting and challenging opportunities for Branch members. The Branch has created four special committees to recruit attendance, assist with the Surgeon General’s Run/Walk, provide funding for the Branch through merchandising, and supporting the opening dinner. This year, the Branch will be combining the annual Anchor & Caduceus Dinner with the conference’s Opening Dinner in order to maximize the use of resources. That said, the Branch will resume the very popular dinner in January of 2010. Calls for volunteers to support these and other opportunities will be soon forthcoming. In the mean time, please feel free to peruse the ACOA website for opportunities and points of contact to volunteer.

In conclusion, I want to thank each ACOA member for their support of the Branch. The Atlanta Branch has historically been a very active group in support of officers, the community and the US Public Health Service. I, along with 2009 Executive Committee, are truly looking forward to another exciting year!

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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 6