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 2                                                                                              July 2011


President's Column

Calendar of Events

1. Atlanta-area USPHS Commissioned Corps Promotion Ceremony
2. Basic Life Support for Health Care Providers Class Schedule
3. Volunteers needed for ACOA service at the Hartsfield-Jackson USO for 2011

1. PHS Officers Respond to Japan
2. Fitness—Rethink Your Drink—Especially in the Heat!
3. Health Benefit Updates
4. Traveling Space A for the Commissioned Corps Officer
5. Trees Atlanta and ACOA Community Service Activity
6. ACOA “Springs” into Action with Habitat for Humanity!
7. PHS Officers Volunteer a the Atlanta Community Food Bank, Community Garden Project
8. ACOA Volunteers Assist Project Open Hand in Effort to Prevent Chronic Disease
9. Telling It Straight About Promotions
10. ACOA Officers Team Up With the Annual EIS Prediction Run

President's Column

Chris Fletcher, LT, USPHS, ACOA President

In my last President’s Column, I briefly spoke about ACOA Executive Committee’s dedication. The Events Planning Committee is working hard to make the 2011 Promotion Ceremony and the 2012 Anchor & Caduceus Dinner a great success. The 2011 Promotion Ceremony will be held Monday, July 18, on the CDC Roybal Campus at 1300hrs. The Surgeon General, VADM Regina M. Benjamin, has been invited to preside over the ceremony and give opening remarks. I encourage everyone to attend, if not to promote but to support your colleagues and fellow officers. Both events will require many volunteers for planning and execution so please keep an eye on the listserv for volunteer solicitations.

The Professional Development committee is making a few changes to refresh discussion topics and format of the ACOA Lunch and Learn program; therefore, the June session is cancelled. The Lunch and Learns will resume in July and ACOA will continue to offer Lunch and Learns quarterly for the remainder of the year. Additionally, The Community Service Committee is as busy as ever planning multiple opportunities to give back locally. Several upcoming events are in the planning stages so watch for the announcements on the listserv.

The 2011 COF Scientific and Training Symposium is almost here and it is no secret that very few officers from the Atlanta area will be in attendance on official travel. ACOA strongly supports the COF Scientific Training Symposium and encourages officers to find creative ways to attend the conference in a city with a rich USPHS history. If you are fortunate enough to attend this year, you can share in the pride of ACOA as we will be awarded the 2010 Branch of the Year award by National COA. The award is a reflection of the continued dedication and support of this branch to the mission of the Commissioned Officers Association. Congratulations ACOA and keep up the award winning work!

It may come as a surprise to some, but ACOA raises approximately half of our operating budget through the sales of Esprit-de-Corps merchandise items and a large portion of that is made during the annual COF Symposium. If you are planning to attend the COF Symposium please consider volunteering for a shift at the merchandise booth. The Merchandise and Special Projects Committee has developed two new items for this year’s COF Symposium, the PHS license plate and a newly designed PHS athletic shirt. Please contact Vice President Eddie Weiss to sign up.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions, suggestions, or would like to become more involved.


LT Chris Fletcher

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Calendar of Events

Community Service

Professional Development

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1. Atlanta-area USPHS Commissioned Corps Promotion Ceremony

Atlanta-area USPHS Commissioned Corps Promotion Ceremony

2. Basic Life Support for Health Care Providers Class Schedule

**Be sure to review all information on courses and registration procedures below*

3. Volunteers needed for ACOA service at the Hartsfield-Jackson USO for 2011

The USO’s mission is to enhance the quality of life of the United States Armed Forces personnel and their families worldwide, and to create a cooperative relationship between United Military communities and those involved or supporting civilian communities. Their flagship operation is the Jean Amos Center at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. This USO Center, because of its strategic location in the world’s busiest airport, assists thousands of service men and women and their families every year.
The Atlanta Commissioned Officers Association (ACOA) is seeking volunteers to support the monthly hospitality service at the Atlanta USO. 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 1200-1500.
**Commissioned Corps officers are needed to volunteer during the following days/times:

Officers interested in volunteering should send the information below to LT Jocelyn Patterson ( and CDR Ross Spears (
**Officers are expected to serve in uniform. The preferred uniform is service khakis.
Family members are not normally allowed to participate in the event, since USO volunteers are expected to be over 18 years of age. Officers may bring food or groceries to donate to the USO of their own accord. This is one of ACOA’s primary activities. It is also a wonderful and rewarding service opportunity.
Thank you for your support!

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PHS Officers Respond to Japan
Contributed by CAPT Thomas Bowman, MS, USPHS, Division of Strategic National Stockpile, Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response, CDC

It was quiet Sunday morning. I was getting ready for church and planning out my afternoon and the Blackberry phone rings. Getting a call from your division director normally gets your attention; getting a call on a Sunday morning from your division director really gets your attention. Before even a hello or good morning, “Do you have your bags packed?” was the question on the other end of the phone from Greg Burel, director of the Division of Strategic National Stockpile. My response was “For what?” as I was going down the list of possibilities in my head of what I may have missed in our conversation.

On March 11, 2011, unprecedented circumstances, which had been thought to be extremely unlikely, occurred in Japan: a massive earthquake and a resulting tsunami that claimed thousands of lives, disrupted the lives of hundreds of thousands of others, and destroyed the regional power and transportation infrastructure. This all was followed by the failure of redundant backup systems to maintain cooling to six nuclear reactors and three spent-fuel pools.

The part I did not know on that Sunday morning was of the many conversations between the Department of State, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) and our own Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that had been going on that previous week. There had been a request from the U.S. Embassy in Japan for technical assistance in protecting U.S. citizens, estimated to be well over 200,000 who had remained in Japan after the voluntary evacuations. U.S. citizens looked to their embassy for protection and guidance. Many of these technical and specialty topics were out of the scope of typical embassy operations, making assistance from U.S. agencies essential.

On March 21, the HHS team began to arrive – including me – to supplement the efforts of the USAID team on site at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, Japan. The primary responsibility of the health and medical team was to assist the embassy in protecting U.S. citizens. The range of expertise included radiation oncology; health physics; potassium iodide (KI) distribution and dispensing; and health, crisis, and risk communication. On our arrival, health and medical concerns related to the radioactivity releases were paramount in the minds of residents of Tokyo and nearby communities as well as at Department of Defense (DoD) facilities.

My role, as a representative of the Division of Strategic National Stockpile, was to provide expertise on KI distribution and dispensing. Much of what we do, as subject matter experts in disaster situations, is to assist those making the decisions with working through the process. This disaster deployment was not unlike the countless disaster deployments in my previous life as a regional emergency coordinator for HHS/ASPR. It is often an exercise in patience and persistence as response decisions become a mix of politics, good practice and science – usually in that order.

The decision to administer KI, or not, to American citizens was not without this same mix of politics, practice and science. It was understood that the need for KI associated with the initial radiation release had passed. All the while, the U.S. Embassy was offering KI to American citizens who came to the embassy, showed their American passport and signed a waiver indicating they had no other means to obtain KI. The paradox to this was that KI is a prescription drug in Japan, and Japanese doctors were told not to issue prescriptions for KI unless directed to do so.

With each passing day and week, it appeared the reactors were becoming more stable and the potential need to have KI in the hands of American citizens in the event something went wrong was dwindling. At the same time, no one could say that something still could not go very wrong, and contingency plans needed to be in place for that possible occurrence. And if there was any doubt, the almost daily aftershocks reminded us this event was far from over.

We often used an analogy in our discussions for the public health and medical-type decisions we grappled with. It is much akin to closing the beach for public health reasons. It is easy to close the beach, but the hard part is having a plan to open it back up and say it is safe. We spent much time talking about the “on” and “off” decision switches and how the real difficulty often entails convincing the political part of the decision mix when it comes to turning something off.

There were two great parts of this nearly three-week deployment. The first was the HHS public health and medical team – technically a task force in Incident Command System terminology – who just worked so well together. Every day was filled with sharing information, thoughts, ideas and discussion. This team was a non-pretentious group of experts that just clicked and were such a pleasure to work with. The second part was the U.S. Embassy staff. From the very first day, the entire embassy staff treated us like we worked there or maybe even better. I don’t think a day went by when someone from the embassy didn’t thank us for being there.

This article is beyond the scope of describing the many activities of the Public Health and Medical Team during our deployment to Japan. There were extraordinary interactions with the other U.S. government agencies, such as DoD, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and the U.S. Department of Energy. Our meetings and candid discussions with Japanese government officials were surreal. And, at the end of it all, we can honestly say, we did some good there.

Pictured left to right at the US Embassy in Tokyo: CAPT Thomas Bowman, Div. of Strategic National Stockpile, OPHPR, CDC; Steven L. Simon, PhD, NIH; CAPT Michael A. Noska, FDA; C. Norman Coleman, MD, ASPR, DHHS; Jana L. Telfer, NCEH/ATSDR, CDC

CAPT Michael A. Noska, FDA; CAPT Thomas Bowman, CDC, at the US Embassy in Tokyo

Steven L. Simon, PhD, NIH; CAPT Michael A. Noska, FDA; CAPT Thomas Bowman, CDC, on the roof of the US Embassy in Tokyo while checking detection equipment
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Fitness—Rethink Your Drink—Especially in the Heat!
Contributed by CDR Tina Lankford, Division of Nutrition and Physical Activity, National Center for Chronic Disease and Health Promotion, CDC

As the weather gets warmer, individuals should examine their daily fluid intake. In normal temperatures, the average person who does little or no activity should drink at least 8 glasses of non-alcoholic, non-caffeinated beverages daily. Warm weather and exercise place even higher demands on the body and will require additional fluid intake.
How can you monitor for dehydration?

  • Drink 8 (8-ounce) glasses of water daily plus additional depending on your activity level and personal needs.
  • Weigh before and after your workout. For every pound of weight lost, consume 16-24 ounces of water.
  • When exercising during summer months, in general, drink 8-16 ounces of water before exercise, 8 ounces for every 10-15 minutes during exercise, and 24-32 ounces within 30 minutes after exercise.

What is Heat illness?
The warmer you get the more your body sweats. As this sweat evaporates, your body gets cooler. However as the weather gets more humid, sweat doesn’t evaporate as well and your body’s internal temperature begins to rise. Heat illness will cause you to feel tired, muscles that feel weak, dizziness, nausea, vomiting or headache. If you recognize these symptoms, move into shade and hydrate as soon as possible with a sport drinks or water with salt to prevent further damage.

Watch out for hidden calories!
High calorie culprits for drinks include:

Depending on how much you drink of the above-you could easily shave 300-400 calories from your daily intake with these small changes.

Bored with water?
Try adding a slice of the following for a refreshing drink: lemons, limes, oranges, strawberries, and cucumbers.

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Health Benefit Updates
Contributed by CDR Leslie Leonard

Tricare Young Adult

Tricare Young Adult (TYA) is finally here! Effective April 27, 2011, young adults are able to enroll in the TYA program.

Dependent eligibility previously ended at age 21, or age 23 if full time college student.

The provisions in the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act extended the opportunity for young adults to continue their Tricare coverage. The sponsor must remain eligible for Tricare in order to enroll in this program.

Tricare Young Adult is offering Tricare Standard coverage to qualified uniformed services dependents under age 26. The monthly premium cost for Tricare Standard coverage will be $186.00.

The dependent must be unmarried and not eligible for employer-sponsored health care. Young adults must already show as dependents in DEERS in order to purchase TYA coverage. Once the coverage is purchased, then DEERS will be updated to reflect their eligibility and dependents may contact their local DEERS office for ID card issuance.

For more information on TYA, FAQS, and the TYA application, please visit

Tricare makes moving easier for Active Duty Families

Active duty service members and their families who move to a new location can now transfer their Tricare Prime enrollment with a simple phone call before they move, whether in the United States or Overseas.

Service members should simply call their current contractor and inform them of the upcoming move. The contractor (Current) will contact the gaining contractor and begin the enrollment transfer. The new regional contractor will contact the service member within 5 business days after the relocation to finalize the transfer.

This option eliminates the need to submit a new enrollment form.

Active Duty members and their families remain fully covered during the process under Tricare.

This new phone option is only one of the choices hat service members and families have when transferring. Other options include visiting a local Tricare Service Center, transferring thru military base in processing, online, and by completing an enrollment application and mailing it to the Regional Contractor.

For more information on transferring enrollment, go to

Please note that the Commissioned Corps Personnel Office has a Health Benefits Advisor available if you need assistance relating to benefits, enrollments, and claims.

CDR Leslie Leonard 404-498-1800

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Traveling Space A for the Commissioned Corps Officer
Contributed by LCDR Matthew Weinburke and LCDR Sue Partridge

Traveling Space Available (Space A) is like traveling on a “Magical Mystery tour”, stated LCDR Sue Partridge (colleague assigned to CDC). “You can have a lot of fun, but you have to be willing to be patient. It’s not an exact science; flights get cancelled or flights are postponed or you may get bumped off the schedule. It’s not for those who need their vacation to be organized and well planned. But, in August, 2010, the benefit has saved us approximately $1000/person! For us, it’s worth the “inconvenience.” LCDR Patridge, her husband, and child have traveled to Europe several times through the Space A program.

Space A is a travel benefit that allows authorized passengers to occupy unused seats on DoD owned or controlled aircraft. To better understand Space A, one has to experience Space A first hand.

Space A travel is a privilege (not an entitlement) available to all Uniformed Services members and their dependents. Space A passengers are eligible for any remaining seats only after all duty cargo and passengers have been accommodated. As USPHS Commissioned Corps officers, we are allowed the privilege to use the Space A travel benefit on a non-mission interference basis only. Family members (dependants) may travel within the CONUS (Continental United States) or OCONUS (outside the CONUS) on these flights when accompanied by their sponsor.

Categories of Travel:

Typically we, as active duty uniformed service member of the USPHS, will be traveling as Category 3 (see below).

In Space A terms your category of travel is your priority. Priority is based on 6 categories of eligibility related to status and situation. The numerical order indicates the precedence of movement.

The following is a partial listing of eligible individuals and their category of travel.

  • CAT 1 - Those on Emergency Leave or unfunded travel in connection with a serious illness, death or impending death of an immediate family member. This travel privilege shall not be used in lieu of a funded travel entitlement.
  • CAT 2 - Those on active duty on Environmental Morale Leave (EML) and their accompanied dependents
  • CAT 3 – Those members of the uniformed services in an ordinary leave or pass status, House Hunting Permissive TDY, and others. This includes members of the reserve components who are on active duty in leave or pass status.
  • CAT 4 – Unaccompanied dependents on EML and DODDS Teachers on EML during summer.
  • CAT 5 – Includes those on permissive TDY (Non-House Hunting), dependents (when accompanied by sponsor), and others.
  • CAT 6 – Retired, dependents (with sponsor), Reservists, ROTC, NUPOS and CEC.

DoD 4515.13-R, Chapter 6, Table 6.1, provides a more complete explanation of each category.

Locations and Flight Schedules

The majority of Space A flights are offered by the Air Force's Air Mobility Command (AMC) or the Navy, and Space A seats are normally free. AMC locations can be found on the following website

For more information on flight schedules, click on the link:

Documents and Other Requirements

In most situations, all active duty USPHS will be prioritized as Category 3 and will be required to present a CAC card and a leave form.

For more information click on the link:


Once travelers are assigned a category upon registering, they compete for seats within categories based on the date and time of registration. When registering for Space A, sign up BOTH for departure and for return flights (2 separate registrations) at the same time. For more information on registration click on the link:

Show Time and other Requirements

“Show Time” is the term used for when Space A seats are normally identified shortly before the departure of the aircraft. Confirmation of the seat(s) may be given as early as 2-3 hours before or as late as 30 minutes prior to departure. It is recommended that one checks with the passenger service center for the space available “Show Time” prior to arriving at the terminal. Be ready for immediate processing and boarding.


Each passenger may check two pieces of checked baggage, < 70 pounds each, and up to 62 linear inches in size (L+W+H).

NOTE: Each terminal may have different baggage requirements. Please call before you arrive.

Flying Space A

For USPHS officers, Space A is one of our lesser known privileges. Traveling Space A is a trial and error experience, and it is not for the impatient. That is why, when I spoke to several retired USPHS officers, they informed me that they loved flying Space A, but admitted that it was easier for them because it worked with their time flexible lifestyle.

Resources and References

Air Mobility Command-

Military Living Space A website-

DoD 4515.13-R (Air Transportation Eligibility, Updated through April 1998) - "The Space A Reg" - Look at Chapter 6 (looks like Table 6.1 has been updated with recent changes)

Air Mobility Command Instruction (AMCI) 24-101 Vol 14 (Military Airlift Passenger Service) - AMC's regulation on how passenger service reps implement Space-A policy (it's a large file). Note: Certain Navy locations may not recognize this as a regulating document, but those locations are still bound by the DoD 4515.13-R. "AMC operated" Navy terminals (Norfolk, Jacksonville, Naples, Signonella, Rota and Souda Bay) are bound by the AMCI.

AMC Point of Contact for Space-A Policy Questions

Coast Guard Air Operations Manual (Chapter 6, Section B, B1 thru B6) is the US Coast Guard document pertaining to Space-A travel.

Dirk Pepperd's Board - Contains near-term (less than 48 hours) flight schedules posted by volunteers (Recommend by several officers as the best source for Space A information )

Space-A Travel "dot com" - Source for Space-A publications and other info

Operational Support Airlift (OSA) Schedule (only from .mil computer using a Common Access Card (CAC)!) The OSA schedules is also known as the JOSAC schedules and searchable by departure or arrival point approx 5 days in advance

DoDEA (DoDDS) Europe and Pacific School Year Calendars - If you're planning a trip be informed when all the kiddies are traveling (less seats!)

Ed Prifogle's Military Travel Site - If all the Space-A mumbo jumbo has scared you off or you want good "tourist" info then this site's for you!

Military Space A Net - Space A links, articles, and links

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Trees Atlanta and ACOA Community Service Activity
Contributed by LT Sylvera Demas

On March 26, 2011 a group of 8 USPHS officers joined forces with Trees Atlanta to help plant native grasses along the edge of Clear Creek, a stream in Atlanta that eventually feeds into the Chattahoochee River. This was the second time that ACOA sponsored a volunteer event in conjunction with Trees Atlanta, and it was certainly a success.

Trees Atlanta is a nationally recognized citizens group that protects and improves Atlanta's urban forest by planting, conserving, and educating. Founded in 1985, Trees Atlanta has planted and distributed more than 75,000 shade trees and cared for more than 100,000 trees. They have also recruited thousands of volunteers and educated an average of 2,000 children and adults annually about the importance of urban trees and how to plant and properly care for them.

Several individuals participated in addition to the USPHS group on a cool and cloudy spring day. We met at the Ansley Mall parking lot where we were greeted by the Trees Atlanta representatives. We then walked along the creek to our designated location behind the mall. The volunteers planted thousands of native grasses that are expected to thrive in the local environment. USPHS volunteers had fun, learned about native grasses, and helped to protect and beautify the Atlanta-area environment.

ACOA Volunteers: Front row L to R: CAPT Pamela Ching, LT Monica Leonard, LCDR Stefanie Rutledge, CDR Kathy Slawson, non-ACOA participant, LCDR Jennifer Verani, LT Sylvera Demas Back row L to R: LT Erin Koers, CAPT Bruce Tierney, LT Koers Fiancee






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ACOA “Springs” into Action with Habitat for Humanity!
Contributed by LCDR Emily Jentes

Although Atlanta Commissioned Officers Association (ACOA) usually volunteers for Habitat for Humanity in the fall months, a spring event was added due to Habitat for Humanity’s popularity with ACOA officers. On Saturday, April 9, 2011, 10 Atlanta-based PHS officer-volunteers helped build a Habitat for Humanity house. The new homeowners are African immigrants who are moving next door to extended family who also just recently moved into their Habitat home.

Each Habitat house is built over seven consecutive Saturdays with as many as 35 volunteers each day; ACOA officers attended Day 4 of the project. Officers installed internal doors, finished siding, caulking, and roofing, and painted interior and exterior walls. Most everyone was speckled with paint once the day was done! The Habitat house leader stated that he was very impressed at the quality of painting. Everyone agreed that it was a personally rewarding experience.

Volunteers worked from 7 a.m. till 4 p.m. Continental breakfast, snacks, and lunch were provided by ACOA.

This is the fifth consecutive year that ACOA has helped to build a house with Habitat for Humanity. If you missed this spring event but would like to volunteer for this worthy cause, ACOA’s fall event is just around the corner. The volunteer recruitment announcement will be out soon!

For more information about Atlanta Habitat for Humanity, see

Picture 1. Early morning photo before starting volunteering
L to R: LCDR Shane Davis, LCDR Rashid Njai, CAPT Lynn Evans, CDR Theresa Harrington, LCDR Emily Jentes, CAPT Gail Stennies, CAPT Michele Pearson, LCDR David Sugerman, and LT Danielle Barradas

Picture 2. Working hard: LCDR David Sugerman works on the exterior of the house.

Picture 3. Safety first!: CAPT Michele Pearson, CAPT Gail Stennies, and LCDR Shane Davis take a hydration break after working hard painting the interior of the house.

Picture 4. After volunteering the team regrouped for another ACOA photo.
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PHS Officers Volunteer a the Atlanta Community Food Bank, Community Garden Project
Contributed by CDR Jaqueline Thomas

On the morning of May 14th, nine USPHS officers and several volunteers from the community (both adults and children) met with Lilly Crymes, a gardener with the Community Garden Project of the Atlanta Community Food Bank (ACFB), to volunteer at the ECOPAAT Ashview Community Garden in Atlanta, GA.

The volunteers had a productive morning and enjoyed assisting with the tasks at hand of clearing debris, removing trees and stumps from the area and overall preparing the land for a garden of fruits and vegetables and learning from Lilly about neighborhood history, gardening, and the ACFB– we were even fortunate enough to be entertained during our break by a college student and neighborhood resident who also worked with us on the garden as he performed a ‘spoken word’ poem. The ACFB Coordinator later commented “your staff really puts in an honest day’s labor when they volunteer”.

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 a wide range of people in need through 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. Among these 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 Ashview Community Garden

Ashview Community Garden is a joint project of the Atlanta Beltline, ECOPAAT Gardens, Neighborhood Planning Unit T, and the Atlanta Community Food Bank located near Morehouse College. ACOA volunteers spent the morning preparing the grounds for a garden by moving and cleaning cinder blocks which will later be used to outline the garden, clearing bricks and debris from the garden area, planting flowers to beautify the entryway to the garden, removing trees and stumps, trimming bushes, and preparing the land for the fruits and vegetables that will be planted in the garden.

Front Row Left to Right: LCDR Tchervavia Gregory, CDR Kathy Slawson, LCDR Stephanie Rutledge, LT Asha Ivey
Back Row Left to Right: LCDR Jennifer Verani, LCDR Charlene Majersky, LCDR Jabal Chase , LCDR Latoria Jordan, CDR Jacqueline Thomas
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ACOA Volunteers Assist Project Open Hand in Effort to Prevent Chronic Disease

Project Open Hand was founded in 1988, when Michael Edwards-Pruitt and several of his friends began preparing meals for friends that were too ill to cook. From 1988 to the present, Project Open Hand has prepared meals in a post-hurricane blackout, won a cooking award for “Best Dessert,” and even enlisted Elton John as a volunteer to deliver meals. Project Open Hand has served over 13 million meals since its inception; currently 700 volunteers weekly prepare 4,500 meals each day for Atlanta-area residents with nutrition-sensitive diseases. On May 1st, 2011, 21 USPHS officers from the Atlanta Commissioned Officers Association (ACOA) and their friends and families volunteered at Project Open Hand to package and deliver meals.

Project Open Hand not only works diligently to fulfill its mission of helping its clients prevent or manage chronic diseases with nutrition education and high-quality meals, they also strive to provide meals that are appetizing, delicious, and easy to prepare. Therefore, they use a 28-day meal rotation, ensuring that no customer is served the same meal more frequently than once every four weeks. Seventeen ACOA volunteers saw this philosophy put into practice, as they packaged approximately 1,300 meals, of at least three different varieties, during the morning volunteer shift. From serving chicken and vegetables to ladling sauces, affixing labels, and sealing the meals, ACOA members did it all!

Not to be outdone, four ACOA volunteers formed two-person teams and followed detailed driving routes provided by Project Open Hand to deliver meals to approximately 20 persons. The drop-off packages generally contained lunch and dinner for two days. The efforts of the ACOA drivers were greatly appreciated, as Project Open Hand is in particular need of meal delivery volunteers on Sunday mornings!

ACOA members enjoyed the opportunity to serve their community and spend time with fellow officers. If you missed out on this opportunity to volunteer, you’ll have another chance this Fall when ACOA will be sponsoring a second event at Project Open Hand. To learn more about Project Open Hand or to volunteer on your own, please visit

ACOA volunteers outside of Project Open Hand facility.
Top row (standing, L to R): LCDR Yon Yu, Judy Oh, LCDR Deborah Dee, Eric Combest, Margi Cseh, Ashleigh Cseh, LCDR Navia Gregory, CAPT Walter Holt, LT Jacinta Smith, CDR Jeff Bosshart. Top row (kneeling, L to R): Olivia Combest, CAPT Larry Cseh. Bottom row (L to R): LCDR Tegan Boehmer, CAPT Monina Klevens, CDR Heidi Blanck, Benjamin Blanck, CAPT Ruth Jiles, CDR Edecia Richards, LCDR Suzanne Beavers.

CDR Heidi Blanck and her son Benjamin are ready to get to work in the kitchen!

L to R: LT Jacinta Smith and Margi and Ashleigh Cseh (wife and daughter of CAPT Larry Cseh) happily scoop broccoli for a well-balanced meal.

L to R: Judy Oh (friend of LCDR Yon Yu) and LCDR Deborah Dee and her husband and daughter (Eric and Olivia Combest) enjoy a short break while they wait for the food containers to be restocked.

L to R: CDR Jeff Bosshart and CAPT Larry Cseh were in charge of sealing and labeling meals on assembly line #1.

L to R: CDR Edecia Richards and LCDR Navia Gregory try to keep up with sealing and labeling meals on assembly line #2.
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Telling It Straight About Promotions
Contributed by Wade P. Kirstein, MPH, FACHE, Captain, USPHSR

“Reissue from The Signal Newsletter, Vol 14 Issue 2, May/June 2003”

After 30 years of commissioned service, I retire from our Corps on July 1 [2003]. My service includes a seven year stint, mid-career, in the U.S. Air Force when the PHS reduction-in-strength behooved me to seek alternate service. Way back when, I even served in the U.S. Army as a Lieutenant during the Vietnam War. I have been asked to write a short article, directed more toward junior officers, on what wisdom I may have to offer on how to get promoted. I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard someone say they had been wronged by a promotion board. I have also shared the hurt feelings of outstanding officers who, all agreed, should have been promoted but were passed over. What advice can I give to an aspiring young officer who hopes to advance quickly and smoothly through the ranks to become a lordly O-6?

You have probably read all the standard information in the DCP publications. To save time, get to the point, and have impact I will use simple declarative and imperative sentences. I will refer to your supervisor as your boss. I will use the generic he/him for male or female boss.

First things first. Do your job. Take pride in what you have done. This is good pride. More later on pride. Take an interest in your Corps. Consider a leadership position with the local branch of the COA. Become part of the OFRD. Wear the uniform impeccably and daily. Pass the physical fitness test. This next part may be painful so brace yourself. You are a Commissioned Officer in service to the United States of America. At some time during your glorious career you are expected to take a new job, in a new agency, in a new location. It is part of the sacrifice expected of us as men and women in uniform. For the Corps, this makes you a more valuable resource and broadens its impact on the health of the Nation. For you, it will be personally rewarding, professionally stimulating, and add to your employment potential. There is a second, technical reason why this is important. You greatly improve your opportunity for a good “score” from the promotion board reviewer if you are in a billet at one grade higher than your current grade. This helps demonstrate that you are performing at the level to which you are eligible for promotion.

But relocation will be hard on my family, you say. Have a talk with your family. Advise them that, to a certain extent, they are also in the service. If they do not understand this, ask them to tune in the news of the war in Iraq, for an update on how the servicemen and their families are faring. They are your brothers and sisters in uniform in harm’s way in a distant land.

You need to learn your boss’s expectation of what is required of you in your work. You must then exceed it, document how you have done so, and help your boss include this information in your file. More on documentation later. Your boss’s primary job is the agency’s goals and objectives. You are employed to help him achieve these goals. Nothing personal, but the reality is that he has very limited time to spend with you personally. You need to help him spend that time well. You are responsible for educating him on how the promotion process works. You are responsible for giving him information he can use to document your good work. In October, when he is about to write your COER, hand him a list of your extra work accomplishments with dates and achievement expressed in numbers. Ask for an award recommendation, hand him a draft of an award narrative. Some will say this is presumptuous, pompous self advocacy, and prideful. If it is prideful, this is bad pride. In your work, if you have done well, the world and the promotion board need to know of it. Your story is news, get it in the papers.

A few words on documentation. You work for the government. As far as governments are concerned if facts are not recorded, they may as well have never happened. For junior officers, especially, create your own version of your personnel file that contains a copy of everything related to your employment: published orders, COERS, training certificates, DD 214’s, “atta boy” letters, payroll stubs, leave records. Keep it up to date, keep a copy of everything. Send a copy of key items, such as resume (keep it current) and training certificates, for inclusion in your official file. In May of every year you will need a list of “extra work” accomplishments to give your boss. Make life easy on yourself. In the back of your daily/monthly planner, keep a log of accomplishments. For example, “June 5, received a commendation letter from the XYZ Health Department on technical assistance provided”, “September 10 had an article published on HIV/AIDS needs assessment in the ABC Journal of Public Debate”. Do you know what a PIR is? You had better know. It is a summary of your entire commissioned corps life boiled down to three pages. It is the first thing the promotion board sees. With all the files they have to review, they have perhaps six minutes to study it. It behooves you to get a copy of it now to see what it says about you. Also, read the narrative comments your boss has written on your COER. The promotion board will, and they will have perhaps two minutes to do so. These must be substantive in character and must evoke at least some emotion that communicates how indispensable you are to the organization. You must covey the importance of these words to your supervisor. Timing is everything. Be diligent in doing daily good work and in documenting it. But two years before your promotion board is blitz time. This moment begins your aggressive campaign to make sure your file sings your praises. Schedule a conference with your boss. Tell him how important it is to you to be promoted and educate him on his crucial role in it. The COER is approximately 80 percent of your promotion score. The promotion board routinely reads and re-reads the last two COERS and assigns big points for what they see. Be relentless in providing facts, drafts, and timing cues on what is to be done next to your boss. Be worthy of an award or medal. Have no shame. Ask for an award recommendation. Assume that it will take one year to be approved and included in your file. With your boss’s approval, write the award recommendation draft yourself.

If all of the above sounds like its great advice but not for you then consider a career opportunity that does not involve uniformed service. What I have described, with all of its weaknesses, is our promotion system and our Corps. Many of us have found its varied roles to be professionally stimulating. Many have found the Corps work to be rewarding, have contributed to it, have succeeded in it, and take pride in it. Join us. Get promoted. Lead us.

Editor’s note:
This article is a reissue from “The Signal Newsletter, Vol 14 Issue 2, May/June 2003”. This article is intended to provide valuable historical general guidance concerning the promotion process. Please refer to the Commissioned Corps Bulletin for any updated information on promotion standards.

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ACOA Officers Team Up With the Annual EIS Prediction Run
Contributed by LCDR Shane P. Davis

During the annual Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) 60th Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) Conference in Atlanta, GA, EIS hosted its 35th Annual Prediction Run. This run is a 2-mile fun run or walk for conference attendees, including current, incoming, and alumni EIS Officers (EISOs). Participants were asked to predict their finish time prior to the run and they could not wear watches during the event. The fastest runner (male and female categories) and the runner with the most accurate prediction received a certificate and of course bragging rights.

LCDR Prabhu Gounder and LT Kamil Barbour mapping the course before the run

During the EIS Prediction Run, both newly-commissioned and active-duty USPHS Officers have the opportunity to complete his/her Annual Physical Fitness Test (APFT). Each year, the EIS Program calls upon the Atlanta Branch of the Commissioned Officers Association (ACOA) to assist in the event and coordinate the APFT activities. ACOA Executive Committee with the help of LCDR Shane Davis, member of the Professional Development (PD) subcommittee, recruited a number of volunteers to help map the course, designate the 1.5-mile APFT finish line, and coordinate the other two APFT activities (push-ups and sit-ups/side-bridges). This year’s Prediction Run was held at Piedmont Park in Midtown Atlanta.

Officers who participated in the run were given red badges so they could be easily spotted during the race. At the 1.5-mile marker, six ACOA volunteers: CDR Kathy Slawson and LCDRs Rashid Njai, Joe Laco, Tchernavia Gregory, Matthew Weinburke, and Shane Davis, were there to record their time. This year 43 Officers signed up for the Prediction Run and completed the APFT.

After Officers completed the run, the two remaining APFT activities began. LCDR Joe Laco, who volunteers for the Prediction Run each year, demonstrates a proper push up (shown above).

The APFT at EIS’ Prediction Run is a fun event and is often times one of the first experiences for newly Commissioned Officers in the EIS Program to interact with fellow CDC PHS Officers, learn about the APFT, and ask questions about Basic Readiness Standards.

Well did any USPHS Officers win the run this year? Well the great news is yes! Officers won all three titles: Fastest Male: LCDR James Colborn, Fastest Female: LT Allison Longenberger, and Closest Predicted Time: Newly commissioned USPHS Officer, LCDR Michael Kinzer, who was only one second off his predicted time. Well I can gladly say, USPHS not only won this year’s bragging rights for the Prediction Run, but ACOA can surely boast about supporting Officers in getting one-step closer to meeting and maintaining Basic Readiness!

We would like to recognize other USPHS Officers who volunteered through the EIS Program to assist with this event: LT Zewditu Demissie, LCDR Cristina Cardemil, LT Adam Bjork, LT Kamil Barbour, LCDR Prabhu Gounder and LT Naomi Hudson.

The Professional Development (PD) subcommittee sponsors quarterly APFT events on several CDC’s campuses a couple of weeks prior to OFRD’s Basic Readiness quarterly checks. Look out for our upcoming announcements on ACOA’s listserve inviting you to the next APFT event!

To learn more about the Epidemic Intelligence Service Program and the Annual EIS Conference, visit its website at

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

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