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 7                                                                                              June 2010


President's Column

Calendar of Events

1. Call for Nominations for Hispanic Officers Advisory Committee Membership
2. Atlanta Area United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps Promotion Ceremony
3. CDC Logo "Challenge" Coin - Available for the first time!

1. Officers on Deployment: Experiences and Insights
2. United Services Organization supported by ACOA
3. ACOA Community Service – Safe Routes to School Bicycle and Pedestrian Rodeo
4. Trees Atlanta and ACOA Community Service Activity

President's Column

Jasen Kunz, LT, USPHS, ACOA President

The last time we talked I was getting settled into the diverse role of ACOA president. Today I am happy to say, thanks to our dedicated membership, ACOA is well on its way to another unprecedented year. If you were monetarily fortunate enough to attend the 2010 Scientific and Training Symposium in San Diego you likely noticed an ACOA presence. Thanks to our dedicated membership, ACOA was able to partner with San Diego COA to sell merchandise and help staff their volunteer booth. I am excited to announce that ACOA made approximately $1400.00 in merchandise sales, which will directly benefit our local membership in the coming year.

I spoke last time about strengthening the ACOA website to make the updates more timely and the content more rich and entertaining. We are currently in the implementation phase of this process with the addition of two dedicated webmasters to the ACOA website. Due to the highly specialized skills required to run the website, ACOA did something rather innovative. ACOA has employed the skills of an inactive reserve officer who cut his active duty teeth on the H1N1 deployment at ASPR. Additionally, ACOA welcomes back one of the original architects of the website to assist with website maintenance duties. Please keep your eye on the website in the upcoming months for more frequent updates and new features coming your way.

I would also like to highlight the upcoming ACOA promotion ceremony to be held Friday, July 23rd at 1300 at CDC’s Roybal Campus (Bldg 19) on Clifton Road. The Surgeon General, VADM Regina M. Benjamin, has been invited to preside over the ceremony and give opening remarks. Dr. Thomas Frieden, Director of CDC and Administrator of ATSDR, has been invited to give the keynote address. In addition, a number of senior officers in the Atlanta area are expected to attend. A reception will immediately follow the ceremony.

Finally, as we enter into the second half of 2010 ACOA, we will begin preparing for the transition of the executive committee. If you have considered running in the past for the executive committee I highly encourage you to do so. There is something to be said about volunteering your service for a non-profit organization that gives so much back to the local community and our membership. If you have any questions about life inside the executive committee or ACOA don’t hesitate to contact me.


LT Jasen Kunz

Back to top

Calendar of Events

Lunch and Learn. Thursday, June 17, 1130-1300, CDC, Chamblee Campus, Building 106, Room 1 A. Topic: The Revised Commissioned Officers' Effectiveness Report (COER). Speakers: CAPT Ravenell Brown, Director of the CDC Commissioned Corps Personnel Office. Contact: LT Cria Perrine, 770-488-5183 or LT Matthew Weinburke, 404-498-1803
View the Lunch and Learn slides [PDF] and COER Rating Bench Marks document[PDF].

Annual Physical Fitness Testing (APFT). Tuesday, June 22, Lifestyle Fitness Center, CDC, Century Center Campus. If you would like to participate please contact: LCDR Shane Davis, 770-488-5726

Back to top


Call for Nominations for Hispanic Officers Advisory Committee Membership
Deadline Date: 01 September 2010

The Hispanic Officers Advisory Committee (HOAC) invites nominations, including self-nominations, to serve a 3-year term on the committee beginning 1 January 2011.

HOAC is an advisory group with members from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Operating Divisions/Staff Divisions and non-HHS organizations to which officers of the Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service (Corps) are detailed. HOAC provides advice and consultation to the Surgeon General on issues related to professional practice and personnel activities of Hispanic Americans who are Corps officers and HHS civil service employees.

If you would like to be considered for appointment to the committee, please submit a CV, a statement of intent and fill out a membership application at

Please send by fax or scan to:

CDR Marisol Cordero, HOAC 2010 Vice Chair
Fax: 609 898-6268

Back to top

Atlanta Area United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps Promotion Ceremony
Submitted by LCDR Dianna Densmore Carroll

Congratulations to all promoted officers! The Atlanta Commissioned Officers Association (ACOA) invites all Atlanta-area officers, coworkers, friends and family to attend the 2010 USPHS Atlanta Area Promotion Ceremony on Friday, July 23rd at 1300 at CDC’s Roybal Campus (Bldg 19) on Clifton Road. The Surgeon General, VADM Regina M. Benjamin, has been invited to preside over the ceremony and give opening remarks. Dr. Thomas Frieden, Director of CDC and Administrator of ATSDR, has been invited to give the keynote address. In addition, a number of senior officer s in the Atlanta area are expected to attend. A reception will immediately follow the ceremony. Questions regarding the ceremony should be sent to LCDR Dianna Densmore Carroll.

Back to top

CDC Logo “Challenge” Coin - Available for the first time!
Submitted by CAPT Bruce Tierney

Sponsored by Atlanta COA

(Note: Coin background appears black in picture but is dark blue.)

  • Great way for CDC Officers to show your pride in the agency
  • Make great gifts to recognize PHS officers, other uniform service officers and fellow public health personnel for a job well done
  • A great addition to any collector of challenge coins

$10 per Coin

Contact CAPT Bruce Tierney at 770-488-0771 or to get your coins today!

Roybal Campus: CDR Ed Dieser at 404-639-0757 or

(Coin is 1.75" in diameter, larger than the standard PHS coin)

Back to top


Officers on Deployment: Experiences and Insights
Contributed by LT Andrea McCollum and LT Matthew Weinburke

In April, ACOA hosted the Lunch and Learn, “My experience on a USPHS deployment”. ACOA was happy to have three officers present their experiences on a variety of recent deployments. CAPT Douglas Hamilton discussed his work aboard the USNS Mercy as part of the Pacific Partnership in 2008; and LCDR Trent LeCoultre and CAPT Holly Williams spoke about their deployments to Haiti in the first months after the 2010 earthquake.

The Pacific Partnership was a humanitarian mission under the command of the US Navy. This mission required the collaboration of multiple partners with the goal of providing critical health care, provider training, public health testing, construction and facility repair, as well as community relations outreach. Officers traveled on the USNS Mercy to a total of five countries over a three month period, stopping at ports to provide services. The USPHS had three different teams assigned to the mission for approximately one month each. CAPT Hamilton was part of “Mercy III” and worked with the Preventive Medicine group, providing basic medical care and services at each port. The USPHS personnel were able to illustrate how principles of individual and population-based services can be of great benefit to communities.

LCDR LeCoultre was deployed to Haiti aboard the USS Bataan in the first month after the earthquake struck in January 2010. LCDR LeCoultre was part of an Applied Public Health Expeditionary Team providing water and sanitation expertise and assistance. The team’s mission was to assess water and sanitation access and health issues at Internally Displaced People (IDP) camps in Grand Goave, Petite Goave, Leogane, and Carrefour. They also were tasked to coordinate responses with the Civil Military Operations Center and several Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs). Among their many successes, the team assessed over 40 IDP camps and developed an implementation strategy that would supply an entire hospital with potable water.

A second presentation on the initial response in Haiti was given by CAPT Williams, who was tasked with establishing a Public Health Branch within the HHS Incident Response Coordination Team. The Public Health Branch was responsible for monitoring public health issues with HHS deployed assets, delivering public health education for HHS assets and others, as well as providing technical assistance to larger humanitarian efforts. A big challenge for PHS officers was aiding in the modification and re-establishment of the Haitian national surveillance system. CAPT Williams and others worked under less than perfect conditions, and lived in tents for much of their time during the first months after the earthquake. This mission was certainly a sobering reminder of the impact and devastation that occurred as a result of the earthquake.

The speakers gave a realistic view about living aboard ships while on a mission or in flexible living quarters during an emergency response. They expressed that the rewards of helping others and contributing towards these missions were well worth the time away from home and their families. The presentations were excellent demonstrations of the dedication of USPHS officers to provide care, assistance, and expertise to others, under both normal conditions and during an emergency response.

CAPT Holly Williams (3rd from left) at ground zero in Haiti. CAPT Doug Hamilton (center) shuttling from USNS Mercy (in the background) to the Island of Chuuk.
L-R: CDR Gary Brunette, LCDR Trent LeCoultre, French Army Commander, Mayor of Grand Goave, CAPT David Shoultz, Assistant to the Mayor, LCDR Sam Russell, CDR Brianna Skinner-Harris.
Back to top

United Services Organization supported by ACOA
Contributed by LCDR Bret Nickels

It is always exciting serving at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport USO – especially when you are serving our nations finest. Every time the Corps volunteers to work at the Hartsfield-Jackson USO, a wonderful experience is shared. The weekend of April 17 was no different. This was the Saturday following the volcanic eruption in Iceland that grounded flights throughout Europe. These flight cancellations spilled over into our military transportation of troops from Atlanta through Europe, as well as into Iraq and Afghanistan.

This airline flight disruption created special opportunities for those of us serving from the ACOA! The density of soldiers and sailors in the atrium and throughout the airport was similar to holiday times such as Christmas. Some of the servicemen had been awaiting transportation for three days already, with no real end of the flying moratorium in sight. These young men and women accepted the delay with grace and patience.

Since there were so many servicemen on standby at the airport, sacks consisting of breakfast items (baked good, fruit juice and fresh fruits) were distributed to the troops. The aforementioned sack breakfast items were made possible by the Army at Ft. Macpherson. The quantity of these sacks coupled with the limited space in the kitchen at the USO made it challenge for the volunteers to move around. However, due to the Corps flexibility and dedication to serving our troops, this issue did not limit our Espirit de Corp.

Another outstanding sacrifice displayed by our troops (given difficulty in getting them to accept the sack items), was in their humbleness in wanting others to have access to these sack items because they felt the need of others was greater.

Even though our service to these men and women was simply passing out food and having good conversation, it was apparent that our time and effort was appreciated by those we served. A PFC straight out of boot camp filled his coffee cup for the third time turned to us, smiled, and began to enjoy a flavor denied him for the past 12 weeks. This was a perfect opportunity to ask him about his family and life being put on hold in service to our country. Another family was on annual leave trying to get to Germany but was stuck for three days and their only home was the Hartsfield-Jackson USO. Both compassion and pride are regular emotional reactions when serving those who serve our country abroad! I encourage each of you to sign up and join us for a few hours one Saturday in the future!

The service times are broken into two shifts, 0900-1200 for shift 1 and 1200-1500 for shift 2. There are openings for both shifts right now on the following dates:

If you are interested in serving on one or more of these dates, please contact LCDR Bret Nickels at or via phone at 404-507-5731. We look forward to seeing you at the USO sometime in the future!

Back to top

ACOA Community Service – Safe Routes to School Bicycle and Pedestrian Rodeo

On May 2, 2010, 14 USPHS officers volunteered at a community Safe Routes to School Bicycle and Pedestrian Rodeo. To promote walking and biking to school, Georgia’s Department of Transportation Safe Routes to School Resource Center along with DeKalb County Safe Kids, Safety Streets Georgia, DeKalb County Commissioner Jeff Rader, Bicycle South, and North Atlanta Urgent Care sponsored a bicycle and pedestrian rodeo for all elementary and middle school students feeding into Lakeside High School. The purpose of a bicycle and pedestrian rodeo is to educate parents and children about the safety aspects of riding a bicycle and being a pedestrian on streets. The goal was to empower school-aged children with pedestrian and bicycling skills and the rules of the road sufficient to keep them safe.

USPHS officers assisted in setting up the event and with registration. Officers also taught children simple safety skills and then helped children practice the skills on simulated “chalk street” courses. Some of the bicycle skills taught included use of hand signals, looking behind you will riding your bike, intersection safety, using breaks and rules of the road. Pedestrian skills included where and how to cross a street, reading pedestrian traffic signals, and pedestrian visibility. Officers also assisted with helmet fit checks and bicycle inspections and tune-ups. Children and parents were taught the importance of helmet use and injury prevention.

Although it turned out to be a hot and very windy day, over 100 families participated in the rodeo. This was the first multi-school rodeo organized in DeKalb County and feedback from the community was very positive. Currently 5 elementary schools that feed into Lakeside High School participate in Safe Routes to School programs. The rodeo raised visibility of Safe Routes to School in the community and educated children and parents on important safety issues in a fun environment.

Safe Routes to School is an international movement—and now a federal program—to make it safe, convenient and fun for children to bicycle and walk to school. When routes are safe, walking or biking to and from school is an easy way to get the regular physical activity children need for good health. Safe Routes to School initiatives also help ease traffic and air pollution, unite neighborhoods and contribute to students’ readiness to learn in school. Additionally, Safe Routes to School is part of first lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move campaign to help solve the childhood obesity epidemic. Atlanta’s USPHS officers were proud to help support these initiatives and enjoyed working with the children.

LCDR Robin MacGowan teaching a child how to use their bicycle breaks. LT Tori Jordan on the “slow race” station which helps children practice staying balanced when they need to ride at very slow speeds.
CAPT Larry Cseh teaching a child how to use their bicycle breaks. LCDR Robin MacGowan performing a bicycle inspection and tune-up.
Back to top

Trees Atlanta and ACOA Community Service Activity

On March 20, 2010 a group of 8 USPHS officers and several of their family members joined forces with Trees Atlanta to help plant trees at the Hapeville Charter Career Academy in Union City, Georgia. This was the first 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, cared for more than 100,000 trees, 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.

The planting at Hapeville was the organization’s first event outside the I-285 perimeter. Hapeville Charter Career Academy is a public charter school that offers a dual enrollment partnership with Atlanta Technical College for High School Students of the Fulton County School System. Several volunteer groups and individuals participated in addition to the USPHS group on a lovely spring day.

We started out the day learning about proper tree planting technique and care of newly planted trees. The volunteers then set off to plant dozens of trees around the school and the surrounding property. Trees Atlanta plants native trees that are expected to thrive in the local environment; we planted a long row of southern Magnolias that will grow into a beautiful enormous natural fence between the school and the nearby highway. The Hapeville Career Charter Academy and Trees Atlanta will provide maintenance (watering, mulching and pruning) for the trees to ensure that they grow well. USPHS volunteers had fun, learned about planting and caring for trees, and helped to protect and beautify the Atlanta-area environment.

LCDR Fuyuen Yip and LCDR Tegan Boehmer LCDR Nicholas Gafga (with his two children and LCDR Jennifer Verani’s daughter)
CAPT Anne Malarcher with her son CAPT Pamela Ching and LT Charlene Majersky

Back to top


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

Visit our website at!