The Signal  Newsletter

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

Vol 22, Issue 2                                                                                              June 2012


President's Column

1. USPHS Merchandise for Sale
2. SAVE THE DATE!  Atlanta-area USPHS Commissioned Corps Promotion Ceremony

1. Atomic Explosions Remembered: As Personally Experienced
2. Springtime at Camp Children’s
3. St. Francis Table
4. ACOA Volunteers with Trees Atlanta
5. ACOA Volunteers at the 6th Annual TB Awareness Walk in Atlanta
6. Polio Eradication Efforts of Commissioned Corps Officers
7. Opening Session of 2012 Lunch & Learn Series:  Readiness and Deployments
8. CDC Commissioned Corps Personnel Office Presents:  Pre-Retirement Seminar
9. ACOA Officer of the Year
10. Atlanta ACOA Veterinarians Earn 2012 Awards
11. Make Paying Your COA/ACOA Dues Easy With Automatic Draft
12. ACOA’s Social Media Adventures
13. Metlife Begins TRICARE Dental Program Partnership

President's Column

Jamie Mutter, LCDR, USPHS, ACOA President

Half of the year is over and that leaves me to ask, where has the time gone? ACOA has been very productive and the committees have been working very hard to bring ACOA members opportunities for Officership and volunteering in the community.

In this President’s Column, I would like to focus on the importance of membership in COA and ACOA.  COA and ACOA are currently holding a membership drive to increase membership in the two organizations.  It is very important that you are a COA member because COA legislation on Capitol Hill continually supports all Commissioned Corps officers - active duty, inactive reserve and retired.  The more members COA has, the stronger and louder our voice is on Capitol Hill.  Show your support for COA and join today for the 2012-2013 operational year.  Most of you will probably agree that a major accomplishment of COA was the Post 9/11 GI Bill transferability for Commissioned Corps dependents.  I know many officers who are taking advantage of the transferability, including myself.  When you renew your COA membership or join for the first time, please also choose to become a member of ACOA. 

ACOA provides many opportunities for Atlanta officers and we strive to be the best local COA branch.  In my opinion…WE ARE, but only because we have support from our membership.  If you are reading this, you are most likely an ACOA member and will be renewing your dues for the next year.  However, please encourage other officers that you interact with to also join COA/ACOA and support the organizations that support them throughout their career.  For questions on membership, please feel free to contact our Membership Chair, LCDR Shane Davis,   

On another note, ACOA has been diligently preparing for the ACOA Promotion Ceremony that will take place on August 6th.  Please save the date and plan to participate if you are promoted or come to support a colleague/friend that is being promoted.  RADM Clara Cobb, Regional Health Administrator for HHS, Region IV, will be our Keynote speaker this year and we are very excited to have her speak since she has been an avid supporter of AOCA for many years.  This year’s promotion ceremony will be a time of celebration for our officers who have worked so hard to be promoted.  Please plan to join us for this special event.

Lastly, I would like to thank the Merchandise Committee for their hard work in researching, creating and ordering new merchandise this year.  Our team did a great job and all merchandise we sell enables ACOA to provide great learning, professional development, social, among other experiences for our Atlanta officers.  Please consider purchasing some ACOA esprit-de-corps items and show your PHS/ACOA pride.  To make it easier to view our merchandise page on our website, please scan the new QR code with your smart phone and it will take you straight to our merchandise page.  I would like to thank our Past President, LT Chris Fletcher with developing this new and insightful tool for ACOA’s use.

Please feel free to contact me at any time with suggestions on how ACOA can help serve our Atlanta officers.  Until next time…


LCDR Jamie Mutter


1. USPHS Merchandise for Sale

New merchandise likely won’t be reordered this year if at all so get your pride items now before they are gone! Here is a link to the ACOA Merchandise Store.

2. SAVE THE DATE!  Atlanta-area USPHS Commissioned Corps Promotion Ceremony 

The Atlanta Commissioned Officers Association will hold the 2012 USPHS Atlanta-area Promotion Ceremony on Monday, August 6, at 1300 at CDC’s Roybal Campus (Bldg 19) on Clifton Road. All Atlanta-area officers and coworkers, friends, and family of promoted officers are invited to attend.

The Surgeon General, VADM Regina M. Benjamin, has been invited to give opening remarks. RADM Clara Cobb, Regional Health Administrator, HHS Region IV, will deliver 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. Questions regarding the ceremony should be sent to LCDR Stacey Bosch (


Atomic Explosions Remembered:  As Personally Experienced
Contributed by
CAPT James Chamblee Meredith, USPHS (Retired), former ACOA President

In 1957, I had the privilege of experiencing 12 atomic explosions.  I use the term “experiencing” rather than “seeing,” because, as I will describe below, all of the senses are impacted. There are relatively few witnesses remaining who can share their first-hand experiences of surface atomic tests, so I am glad to share my experience for the benefit of younger people and I hope that they will pass this on to future generations.

As a Commissioned Officer of the U. S. Public Health Service (PHS), I was assigned to the 1957 Atomic Tests in Nevada to provide off-site monitoring along with about 50 other PHS Officers, one civil service scientist, and two U.S. Army veterinarians.   The last surface atomic test in the United States took place in 1957.  All later tests in the U. S. have been performed underground.  The Nuclear Test Ban Treaty was signed in 1963, and since then, all nations except France and China have tested their nuclear weapons underground.

After each atomic explosion, about 15 PHS officers and I were assigned to drive back and forth under the nuclear cloud as it moved eastward for a few days to test for radioactive fallout.  The remaining officers were stationed in strategic communities in Nevada, Utah, Arizona, and California to provide continuous monitoring of radiation and to keep the local citizens informed of atomic explosions (termed “shots”) and related activities.  The two Army veterinarians observed animals in the four-state area potentially affected by the atomic tests.  So that we would blend in with the public, none of us were in uniform.  The Atomic Energy Commission provided on-site monitoring.

Our PHS Director was CAPT Oliver Placek and the Assistant Director was CDR Melvin Carter.  Later, Dr. Carter became a professor at Georgia Tech and was recognized as a world-renowned expert on nuclear energy.  For example, he was an on-site consultant at the “melt down” disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Russia.
The Nevada Atomic Test Site was located 65 miles northwest of Las Vegas.  All of the personnel involved in the tests stayed at Camp Mercury.  We lived in small trailers with two sets of bunk beds.  We could look out our window and see an Army encampment across a dry gulch where a battalion of soldiers suffered in the heat living in pup tents. The soldiers were there to take their places in trenches about a mile or two from “ground zero.”  This was later determined to be a bad decision to use humans as “guinea pigs” in the test.
Navada atomic test site
Camp MercuryOn days when an atomic shot was scheduled for the following morning, we would check the tower in the center of the camp at 6:00 p.m. to see whether the light was green or red.  If the light were red, we would head into Las Vegas to see live entertainment with famous movie stars.  If the light were green at 6:00 p.m., we would eat supper and relax until 11:00 p.m. and check the tower again.  If the light were red, we would sleep through the night.  If the light were green, we would go to bed and get up at 1:00 a.m. and eat breakfast in the dining hall.  A point of interest is that we would gain entrance to the dining hall by putting a silver dollar in a slot to open the turnstile.  Dollar bills were not used in Nevada at that time, so people would have silver dollars available to put into slot machines.  

Everyone would go around with pockets bulging with silver dollars.  

From the dining hall, we would load up into vans to go to the test site to be in place by 4:00 a.m.  Before the test series was started, we had been given a tour in closed vehicles around the craters from earlier atomic tests.  The craters appeared similar to a volcano crater, except that they were not black with lava but white with fused sand.  The craters were about a mile in
diameter and were ringed by structures made from different materials to determine how they stood up under explosions.  There were also damaged trucks and other vehicles that had been left there because they were contaminated with radioactive materials.  It may seem hard to imagine today, but we went on these tours without wearing any protective gear.

When we arrived at the test site before an atomic shot, it would be completely black with darkness.  Most of the bombs were detonated at one minute before daybreak to allow testing for radiation without any sunlight.  Sunlight consists of many of the same types of radiation as an atomic explosion – visible light, infrared light, ultraviolet light, etc., and they wanted to observe the initial explosion without sunlight.

We would be standing in a bunker, which was essentially a mound of sand about 15 feet high and about a mile long, located about ten miles from ground zero.  Our only protective clothing was a pair of dark goggles.  An atomic blast is about 100 times brighter than the sun, so we could look directly into the sun with those goggles and it would appear as only a bright disc.  Please keep in mind that these are my personal reflections and are not an official description of an atomic explosion.
            Mushroom CloudA voice would come over a loud speaker at intervals giving us warning of the approaching time for explosion.  Finally, the count-down would begin – ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one, zero.  The first awareness that I had of something happening was a feeling that the atmosphere was electrified and there was a slight odor of ozone in the air -- like during a thunderstorm.  Immediately there was a bright flash that was all that my eyes could bear through the dark goggles.  Within a couple of seconds, a bright white ball formed and expanded very quickly at ground zero and then started to rise quickly.  At that point the sun would rise all of a sudden as it always does in the dry desert and it appeared that the explosion had lit up the world.

After the initial bright flash, we were allowed to remove the goggles.  The white ball would expand rapidly and start turning bright yellow as it rose.  The color turned quickly to orange and then to a fiery red.  Finally, as the cloud took the form of a gigantic mushroom, the whole column would turn white and keep expanding upward.  The next sight seen at every test was a silver airplane circling the cloud and reflecting both the sunlight and the brightness of the cloud. 

After about a half hour, the cloud would begin drifting east.  We would then go back to the camp and get into vehicles to start driving out across the desert to test for radioactive fallout.
We had to wait several days sometimes for shots until the wind was in just the right direction.  It is interesting that when shots were called off, sometimes people would report seeing the cloud moving across Nevada and Arizona or even Utah.  Newspapers would report these sightings and then have to retract the reports the next day.

There would be two men per car or truck, and we would stop periodically to check for different forms of radioactivity – gamma rays, beta rays and alpha rays – and call in our results by radio.  We used what the public knows as Geiger Counters that used removable shields to block out all but one type of radiation at a time.  One time we made the mistake of calling in from a point on the side of the road in the barren desert when it was about 110 degrees Fahrenheit in the shade, except there was no shade.  CDR Carter said over the radio to stay there and call in readings every fifteen minutes.  We were there for about three hours in the dry heat, and I became dehydrated and developed a severe headache.  When we finally got to a populated oasis, my partner went swimming in a public swimming pool surrounded by palm trees, while I lay on a bench and suffered.  I got over it after drinking a lot of water and having a good night’s sleep.  We would usually be gone for two or three days on these cloud-tracking trips.  In the meantime, our headquarters was plotting the radioactivity readings on maps as we called in.

One time, a bomb on a tower did not go off and our assistant director picked me as the subject of a practical joke.  When I got back to the office, he said, “Cham, we got a call from control central and they want a Public Health Service Officer to go up the tower and see whether the electric cable might have been left unplugged.  You have been selected.”  For a moment, I believed him and I know that I must have turned white.
The main test that I want to describe in detail for you took place in the open desert in full daylight with the bomb suspended on a balloon about a mile high in the sky.  From a mountain top about seven miles away, we could see a cable reaching from a structure at ground zero to the balloon, which looked somewhat like the Goodyear blimp.  Without any protection except our usual goggles, we took the full impact of the explosion.  Most of the other explosions we had seen from behind the bunker were from bombs equivalent to 10,000 to 20,000 tons of TNT.  This special shot was equivalent to 60,000 tons of TNT, and may be the largest surface test ever conducted in the U.S.  Again, please keep in mind that my observations were limited to a three-month period and I did not have full knowledge of all facts.

After a long wait, the announcement came from the loud speakers that we should put on our goggles and standby.  A few minutes later came the countdown, this time with everyone having strong feelings of uncertainty and awe – ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one, zero!  Suddenly, the atmosphere was electrified.  An extremely bright light appeared at ground zero.  Even though the explosion actually took place a mile high over the desert, it appeared to take place at ground level like all the other shots.  The white ball probably stretched from the balloon all the way to the ground. The next sensation was the passing of the heat wave.  It had the same intensity as one would experience if the door of a blast furnace at a steel mill were opened and closed suddenly.  Fortunately, we were not harmed by the extreme heat because of the short duration of the heat wave passing by us.

The announcement came that we could remove our goggles.  Then we could see the rising fireball turn yellow and then red and finally back to white.  Being in bright daylight, we suddenly could see the shock wave kicking up a circle of dust about 50 feet high while moving outward at the speed of sound from the ground zero.  We were given no warning of this and the sight was awesome.  We had nowhere to hide.  All of a sudden, the sound wave hit with its cloud of dust, and we were pushed backward by the impact.  However, before we could fall to the ground, a force came behind us and pushed us back up.  The shock wave moving outward in a gigantic circle apparently created a partial vacuum behind it so that the wave expanded in both directions and got broader and broader.  Surprisingly, there was no actual sound in the wave, at least not at our elevation, but the sensation was one of great pressure, like a strong wind kicking up dust.  The sand in the air momentarily blinded us, and when it went by, we could feel that we were covered with a light layer of sand.  The only sound that we heard was a brief, low, almost imperceptible rumble in the distance.

Being able to see again, we observed the huge white cloud mushrooming out at the top and the usual airplane circling around.  We stood there in awe. This atomic explosion was three times the power of the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan in 1945.
I was amazed that all that energy could come from a small amount of matter.  According to Einstein’s equation (discussed briefly below), the amount of mass converted to energy is multiplied by the speed of light squared, showing that the amount of energy in a small amount of mass is tremendous.  I thought of the instance of creation when God must have converted a part of His unfathomable energy into the mass of the universe.  Astronomers and physicists have no other explanation, but this one satisfies me.  Someday, it will all be converted back into energy.  There will be no need of the sun to light up Heaven.

In thinking back on that special assignment a half century ago, I am grateful to have been a part of that highly significant and awesome experience that helped to keep the United States in a strong defensive position in the world.  From an agency perspective, it provided the opportunity for the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps to contribute in a vital and visible way in an operation so important to our country.

Addendum:  Development of the Atomic Bomb

As soon as the universe was created, the stars, including our sun, began converting mass (back) into energy through thermonuclear fusion of hydrogen into helium.  The United States has successfully exploded hydrogen bombs utilizing the same thermonuclear reactions.  Those bombs were over 1,000 times more powerful than the atomic bombs that we have exploded in tests and in World War II, which utilize fission reactions with uranium and/or plutonium.  However, the principle of converting mass into energy is the same, and only the atomic bomb is discussed here.  
In 1896, Antoine Henri Becquerel, a French physicist, discovered natural radioactivity while studying uranium.  Uranium is the principal source of nuclear energy that is generated through fission.  Natural uranium is composed of over 99 percent of the isotope U-238, but comprises only about 0.7 per cent of the most important isotope U-235, which is used in nuclear reactors and some atomic bombs.  Natural uranium in its mineral form is reacted with fluorine to produce gaseous UF6 from which the highly fissionable U-235 can be separated by diffusion, centrifugal action or other processes.  U-233, made artificially from Thorium, can also be used in nuclear reactors.  Plutonium (Pu-239), made artificially from uranium, can be used in nuclear reactors and bombs.  One World War II bomb contained uranium (made in Oak Ridge) and the other contained plutonium (produced at Hanford).
In 1905, the universally known, German-born physicist, Albert Einstein, developed the famous theory relating energy (E) to mass (m) in the equation E=mc2, where c is the speed of light.  Early in World War II, Einstein, then living in the United States, wrote President Roosevelt, informing him that Germany might be developing a nuclear bomb and urging the United States to develop an atomic bomb.  
An atomic bomb consists of two concentric steel spheres or cylinders: the inner chamber containing uranium enriched to 90 percent U-235 (or plutonium), and an outer sphere containing TNT and other explosives.  Lead is used as a shield around the bomb to minimize penetration of radioactivity to the surroundings during manufacture, storage, and transportation.  The TNT implodes, i.e., “explodes” inwardly, when it is ignited by impact or an electrical current, causing the uranium or plutonium to be compressed to a critical mass, thus starting an unstoppable chain reaction, leading to an atomic explosion. This description was not publicly available in 1957, but appears now in many publications. The artificially created chain reaction that leads to an atomic explosion was produced in 1942 at the University of Chicago under the direction of Enrico Fermi, an Italian-born physicist.  Under the highly secret Manhattan Project, the United States produced the first atomic bombs in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and Hanford, Washington.  The first atomic bomb was exploded secretly in New Mexico in 1945.  In August 1945, the United States exploded two atomic bombs in Japan, thus helping to bring the War to a close.

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Springtime at Camp Children’s
Contributed by LCDR Adriane Niare

On April 5, 2012, eight officers happily volunteered their time to bring an art camp experience to patients and their families at Children’s Health Care of Atlanta at Scottish Rite.  The officers created a fun and wonderful environment for the children where they could make arts and crafts to decorate their rooms.  The theme was, “Spring is in the Air at Camp Children’s.”  In keeping with the theme, the children and their families decorated pillowcases, sun visors, tote bags, door hangers, and bookmarks using paint and appliqués.  The activities brought smiles to the kids’ and their families’ faces. Twelve children and their families enjoyed showcasing their creativity while designing their own masterpieces. 

The dedication and compassion of ACOA volunteers to give so selflessly their time to others speaks volumes and made this event a huge success. A special thanks is extended to LCDRs Jabal Chase, Erika Odom, Stephanie Rutledge, Henraya McGruder, and LCDR Adriane Niare, as well as LTs Sharanya Krishnan, Rachel Slayton, and NaTasha Hollis for volunteering their time and creativity. These officers represented the Corps and our values with honor and kindness. 

Camp Children’s volunteers were led by LCDR Adriane Niare.  This was the fifth year that ACOA volunteers have organized a camp experience for hospitalized children and their families and, as usual, it was very gratifying. We hope that other officers will take the opportunity to share in the Camp Children’s experience at our next event.
The participating officers’ words best sum up the experience:Creative pillowcase

“This has become one of my favorite outreach efforts on behalf of the PHS.  It warmed my heart to see the smiles on the faces of the children as well as the volunteers.  Having a direct influence on public health is heartwarming.”  LCDR Henraya McGruder, CDC

“This was my second time volunteering with the group at Camp Children’s and I enjoyed it just as much as before. There is nothing like the joy you experience by seeing a smile on a child’s face. Small things matter the most, so for one going through challenging times due to sickness, bringing happiness to them brings happiness to me.” LT NaTasha Hollis, CDC

“Volunteering at Children’s Hospital was a fantastic experience. It was a great way to go out with other Corps officers and have an effect on the community, and the kids made some beautiful artwork!”   LT Rachel Slayton, CDC

“Interacting with children in this setting was completely new to me, and I was not sure if I was suited for this volunteer event.  But the children just wanted to have fun and this put me at ease.  I hope I will get a chance to participate again.”  LCDR Stephanie Rutledge

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St. Francis Table
Contributed by CDR Kathy Slawson

On Saturday, February 18, 2012, fifteen officers and their guests volunteered at St. Francis Table on behalf of the Atlanta Commissioned Officers’ Association (ACOA).  At St. Francis Table, volunteers come from different organizations and groups every Saturday. The specific number of volunteers each organization provides is based on advance notice and need.  We not only met our quota of 15 volunteers, but had 10 officers standing by on the wait list.
St. Francis Table is a soup kitchen located in Atlanta, Georgia, that is dedicated to furthering the efforts of assisting the poor and hungry.  The weak economy has had a big impact on Atlanta and the number of homeless and hungry people has increased dramatically. St. Francis Table feeds over 550 people every Saturday.  It was started in response to the lack of a food program being offered on Saturday to feed the hungry in Atlanta.  St. Francis Table began operating about 30 years ago, and is modeled after the work of the Franciscans, who sought to imitate the indigent lifestyle of St. Francis of Assisi.  Though St. Francis came from a wealthy family, over time, he developed a distaste for the extravagant lifestyle he used to enjoy. Instead, he chose to live in poverty, and others chose to emulate him; in time, this group of followers became known as the Franciscans.
St. Francis Table is located at the Catholic Shrine of the Immaculate Conception Church in downtown Atlanta.  During the Civil War in 1864, when General William Sherman and his Union soldiers destroyed and burned Atlanta, the Atlanta Catholic Church (as it was called then) was spared in part because many of Sherman’s forces were Catholic.  Although the church survived the war, the building suffered severe damage, and a new building was constructed, beginning with the relocation of the old wood-frame building to an adjacent lot.  The rebuilt church was renamed Immaculate Conception.  It was designated a shrine (an honor to the church, highly venerated due to its history) and is known today as the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and Shrine of the entire Atlanta diocese.  During the course of restoration, the long forgotten tombs of the early priests were uncovered.  The crypt is included as part of an optional tour for the Saturday volunteers, and mass is available at mid-morning for those who may want to receive communion.
The kitchen operations began early at 0700 hours and continued until noon.  The ACOA volunteers set up and cleaned tables, served soup, bread, and beverages, seated guests, packed food, and assisted with cleanup.  This year, volunteers were asked to bring packages of sliced meats or cheeses so sandwiches could be made and distributed as a carryout lunch for the homeless.  St. Francis Table also receives some of its food from the Atlanta Community Food Bank where ACOA also volunteers each year.  Many of the ACOA volunteers who served St. Francis Table in August 2011 returned and many vowed to “keep coming back.”  A regular Saturday volunteer commented that it was nice to see so many familiar faces from our ACOA group!

For more information on St. Francis Table please refer to

St. Francis Table
Front Row: LCDR Tracie Gardner, CDR Maria Cano, LCDR Charlene Majersky, CAPT Ann Malarcher, LT Jean Ko, CDR Kathy Slawson. Back Row: LT Brek Steele, CAPT Chad Helmick (Ret.), Eric Combest, LCDR Deborah Dee, Matt Smithson, Mark Slawson. Not pictured: CAPT Julie Margri, LT Erin Grasso, Chris Malarcher
St. Francis Table
CDR Maria Cano and LCDR Charlene Majersky on a photo break in front of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception Cathedral altar.

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ACOA Volunteers with Trees Atlanta

Contributed by LCDR Sylvera Demas

On Saturday, February 25, 2012, nine ACOA volunteers joined forces with Trees Atlanta to help plant trees. ACOA volunteers planted containerized and balled-in-burlap (B&B) trees and shrubs in the river bottom of a headwater tributary of South Fork Peachtree Creek, a stream in Atlanta that eventually feeds into the Chattahoochee River. This was one of two events that ACOA will collaborate with Trees Atlanta this year, 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 81,000 shade trees and cared for more than 100,000 trees. They also have 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 joined ACOA volunteers on a cool and cloudy spring day. We met at 424 Glendale Avenue in Decatur where we were greeted by a Trees Atlanta representative. We then walked along the path to our designated location behind the Decatur Cemetery. The volunteers used axes and shovels to dig holes to plant nearly 100 trees that are expected to thrive in the local environment.  All plant species were native to Georgia (a mixture of Coastal Plain, Piedmont, and Appalachian plant types). Then, volunteers placed mulch around the trees and carried buckets filled with water from the creek to water the trees. ACOA volunteers had fun while learning about containerized and B&B trees, and helping to protect and beautify the Atlanta-area environment.

ACOA Volunteers: Kneeling L to R: LCDR Jamar Barnes , LCDR Sylvera Demas. Standing L to R: LCDR Minal Patel, LCDR Benjamin Silk, LCDR Matthew Wise, LCDR Joseph Cavanaugh, CAPT Michele Pearson, LT Shauna Mettee,  Kylie Mettee. Not pictured: LCDR Adam Bjor
Trees Atlanta
CAPT Michele Pearson & LCDR Jamar Barnes in action
LT Shauna Mettee, daughter Kylie, & a non-ACOA volunteer planting a tree

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ACOA Volunteers at the 6th Annual TB Awareness Walk in Atlanta
Contributed by LCDR Tracie Gardner

Tuberculosis (TB) remains an epidemic in much of the world, causing the deaths of several million people each year. World TB Day is recognized annually on March 24 to commemorate Robert Koch’s discovery of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacterium that causes tuberculosis.  Activities in support of World TB Day present opportunities to raise awareness about tuberculosis-related problems and solutions, and to support worldwide TB-control efforts. 

Each year, a TB Awareness Walk takes place in Atlanta, Georgia, at which adults, children, (and pets) walk a two-mile course through beautiful Grant Park.  Event registration is free, and, in addition to the walk, the crowd can participate in a variety of fun, family friendly activities. Snacks, coffee, and water are also provided, courtesy of local small business sponsors identified by National TB Controllers Association, Atlanta Chapter of the American Lung Association, and Results International.  This year, the event was held on March 24, 2012.

It takes many dedicated volunteers to support an activity of this magnitude; therefore, when the TB Walk Committee mentioned that they needed volunteers for the day of the event, the Atlanta Commissioned Officers Association (ACOA) was eager to assist. Eleven Atlanta-based officers participated in the event by directing walkers around the two-mile course. Volunteers began arriving at 7:30 a.m.  They marked the course before the walkers arrived and were assigned a station or corner at which to hold directional signs and cheer on the crowd. 

Following introductory remarks, including one by RADM Kenneth Castro, Assistant Surgeon General, USPHS, and Commanding Flag Officer, CDC/ATSDR Commissioned Corps, and a flash mob dance to warm up the crowd, volunteers took their places along the course to direct and cheer on the 500+ registered walkers. Volunteers also ensured that all walkers had cleared the course by following the final walkers to the finish.  Not only did our volunteers motivate the walkers but they were able to participate in the walk as well!

ACOA also had a walk team consisting of USPHS officers and their family members.  ACOA visibility and support was evident on this sunny day! We look forward to continuing our support of this activity in the future.

For more information about World TB Day visit the CDC Web site at

TB Walk
First row L to R: CDR Kathy Slawson, LCDR Sherry Burrer
Second row L to R: LCDR Anne Marie France, LT Brek Steele, LCDR Emily Jentes, LCDR Tracie Gardner, CDR Sapna Bamrah, CAPT Theresa Harrington,  LCDR Fuyen Yip. Not pictured: LCDR Deborah Dee, Eric Combest, Olivia Combest.

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Polio Eradication Efforts of Commissioned Corps Officers 
Contributed by CAPT Diana Bensyl, USPHS; LCDR Kamil Barbour, USPHS; and Yolanda Freeman

“It’s very cool to say I had a hand in making history,” says CAPT Diana M. Bensyl, PhD, MA, of CDC. CAPT Bensyl became involved in the polio response by participating in the two-week Stop Transmission of Polio (STOP) training in January 2012.  She attended the training to have a better understanding of the program needs, how the EIS officers she supervises could play a role, and what type of experience would be needed to participate in STOP. She wasn’t expecting to be able to participate in an international assignment herself. However, during the training, the polio staff announced the need for responders for a two-week assignment to Kenya. CAPT Bensyl talked with her supervisor and let the polio staff know of her interest in the assignment. A week later, she was off to Kenya. CAPT Bensyl helped conduct polio surveillance and provided leadership for Epidemic Intelligence Service officers (EISOs) working in Kenya. CAPT Bensyl and five EISOs, who also participated in the STOP training class, were joined in country by other CDC staff. The team included three other commissioned corps scientists from CDC: LCDR Sara Lowther, LT Cara Halldin, and LT Heather Scobie.

During her time in Kenya, CAPT Bensyl stated her experience was very rewarding, and was a lot of hard work with very little down time. The working conditions were often tough, including 12-15 hour workdays, an austere environment, and limited resources. When considering an international assignment for polio, potential responders should consider the following: accommodations may be a nice hotel or they might be a tent; food might be a hotel buffet or whatever you put in your backpack when you left that morning; and road conditions could be a smooth highway, a washed out riverbed, or a small aircraft. There also might be security concerns. CAPT Bensyl was working near the South Sudan border, which is experiencing a drought and is also near a conflict zone. Even though she was in a very difficult area, CAPT Bensyl found the opportunity to network with other organizations, interact with new cultures, and work on the front lines of public health.  This experience was amazing, motivating, and inspirational.

LCDR Kamil Barbour, PhD, MPH, of CDC was intrigued after hearing an announcement from the EIS program about the potential to be involved in STOP training and deployment.  Eager to be a part of this effort, LCDR Barbour understood that it would be very good training for him as an EIS officer. Though LCDR Barbour did not have a specific interest in a polio field assignment prior to the announcement, he felt it would be a great privilege to be a part of the historical effort to eradicate polio.  LCDR Barbour also attended the STOP training and was asked to travel to Guinea to help conduct Acute Flaccid Paralysis (AFP) surveillance reviews.

In February, LCDR Barbour arrived in Conakry, Guinea, with his CDC colleague, Suzanne Powell. LCDR Barbour’s initial experience in Guinea was quite an adventure.  Once in Conakry, they were asked by the Customs Officer to surrender their passports because their visas were not processed.  This was the first of several obstacles the team faced. Additionally, no hotel rooms were booked, ATMs did not dispense cash, and money exchangers were almost impossible to find.  Though the beginning of the trip was off to a rough start, the team realized they had a mission to complete and were ready for the challenges ahead!

LCDR Barbour was given the task to travel to the Labe region of Guinea to conduct AFP surveillance review.  The Labe region is one of the high risk areas for wild polio virus (WPV) transmission. In each district, LCDR Barbour was asked to visit two to three health centers, a hospital, and traditional healers if possible. He would interview the main point of contact at each site and administer a standardized questionnaire that was used to evaluate the sensitivity of the region’s AFP surveillance system. The questionnaire focused on record keeping, logistics, and resources. The review also included ensuring those interviewed knew the case definition and the protocol to use when an AFP case was identified. After completion of their review, the team presented their findings and recommendations to the Ministry of Health in Conakry.

While in Labe, the team spent several days in the field traveling on dusty roads that were difficult to navigate and made for a rough ride. During the little down time the team had, they were able to enjoy the scenery of Labe and take in some of the culture at the marketplace and countryside.

CAPT Bensyl’s advice for those interested in responding to a polio international assignment is to be flexible, calm, and learn to go with the flow, but always keep the goal in mind. LCDR Barbour’s advice to responders is to learn a little about the country to which you are assigned. It is important to know that there is a lack of resources in these countries, and that some of the most basic amenities may be unavailable. Even though there are plenty of challenges to the work in polio, LCDR Barbour stated, “Once polio is finally eradicated, you can take pride in the fact that you made a contribution towards the demise of this very deadly virus.”

If you are interested in becoming a part of history and working on polio, take the following steps:

  1. Talk with your supervisor about your interest in being an emergency responder and how this would fit into your work plans.
  2. Get to know the Emergency Coordinator (EC) in your CIO. ECs are the link between the work in the response and each program in CDC.
  3. Make sure that all of your information is correct in CDC Neighborhood and indicate your interest in being a responder in the Emergency Operations portion of your Personal Profile. View the website.
  4. Be sure you have the proper training to work in a response. You can find all the information that you need to know about this training in CDC University’s School of Preparedness and Emergency Response. View the website.

If you are interested in becoming a responder for polio eradication response, email the CDC Emergency Operations Center (CDC EOC) at

Polio Eradication
Kenya polio surveillance team, February 2012: LCDR Sara Lowther (row 1, person 1), LT Cara Halldin (row 1, person 4), CAPT Diana Bensyl (row 1, person 5), LT Heather Scobie (row 1, person 7),
CDR Katrina Kretsinger (row 2, person 1), LCDR Samir Sodha (row 2, person 2), LCDR Satish Pillai (row 2, person 4), and LCDR Kristie Appelgren (row 2, person 5)
Polio Eradication
LCDR Kamil Barbour in a marketplace in Labe, Guinea

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Opening Session of 2012 Lunch & Learn Series:  Readiness and Deployments 
Contributed by LCDR John Halpin

On March 22, ACOA kicked off its first in a series of Lunch and Learn events for 2012 with a meeting focused on Readiness Standards and Deployment preparations. This meeting was followed by a tour of the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) at CDC. 

Lunch and Learn events are hosted by ACOA four to five times per year and cover a range of topics pertinent to Atlanta-area commissioned corps officers.  Although this first meeting took place on the CDC Roybal campus, you can expect to see future sessions taking place at various campuses around CDC.  The next session, “Job Opportunities with the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), Indian Health Service (IHS), and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE),” will be held at Chamblee campus on May 30, 2012, from 11:30-1:00.

Lunch and Learn sessions provide a forum for ACOA business matters as well as a venue for informational topics. The March meeting was kicked off with an award presentation for the 2011 ACOA offiLCDR Lacocer of the year.  CAPT Bruce Tierney was the recipient this year, having earned the award as a result of his many contributions to the ACOA over the past year (please see article in this issue that highlights CAPT Tierney).

Three speakers presented on the topics of readiness standards and deployment preparations.  Speakers included LCDR Joe Laco, from the Commissioned Corps Personnel Branch; CDR Sean-David Waterman from the Office of Force Readiness and Deployment (OFRD); and CDR Gary Brunette, who is the current chief of the Travelers’ Health Branch at CDC.  LCDR Laco began with a comprehensive overview of the current readiness standards utilized by the Commissioned Corps.  Noted during the presentation were such issues as: the ramifications of not maintaining one’s basic readiness, the various requirements and criteria which comprise basic readiness, the locations and methods for logging the data that confirm one’s basic readiness, the online courses that are required for basic readiness, and the resources available to officers who have further questions or concerns regarding their basic readiness.  

Next, CDR Sean-David Waterman addressed the audience by phone-bridge to provide insight into a number of questions regarding readiness from his point of view as the Medical Readiness Manager for the Response section of OFRD.  Among the issues that CDR Waterman addressed were the type of roles and missions we can expect for OFRD deployers in the coming years, the trends in readiness status for Commissioned Corps officers in various professional categories, and the current and pending status of the President’s Challenge.

The final speaker was CDR Gary Brunette, who provided the audience with a description of the preparations and highlights of the several deployments he has conducted to various regions of the world under the auspices of the Commissioned Corps OFRD.  CDR Brunette has previous deployment experience from the time he spent as a member of the South African Navy, as well as the US Navy, and this prior experience with overseas deployments served him well in his deployments while serving in the Commissioned Corps.  CDR Brunette opened his presentation by stressing the importance of proper preparation for deployment, both physically and mentally.  He noted that to prepare properly, one must “know your mission, know your team, know your role, and know your environment.”   He noted how strenuous some of his deployments have been, underscoring the importance of the readiness standards which require all deploying officers to maintain a high standard of physical fitness.

CDR Brunette describes his deployment during Operation Unified Response, Haiti, 2010

CDR BrunetteCDR Brunette has deployed twice to the island nation of Haiti, first in response to a hurricane that hit Haiti hard in 2008, and then in response to the massive earthquake that affected Haiti in 2010.  In both cases, he worked closely with and alongside members of the US Navy, who provided his transportation and other support.  He noted that, from a medical standpoint, the military is primarily focused on the preventive health needs of its own members during a mission such as this, while he and his Commissioned Corps response team were primarily focused on the preventive health needs of those affected by the natural disasters in Haiti.  CDR Brunette noted that security concerns can play an important and sometimes frustrating role during deployments conducted with military forces, in part because security issues will always take precedence over general public health issues.  There were times during his deployments when he was quite restricted in his movements and ability to function due to security concerns, and he suggested that this is something that all deployed USPHS officers need to be prepared to deal with and understand when working with the military.  He further noted that while on a deployment, “there is no duty that is beneath your rank.”  He illustrated this point by showing some of the basic, arduous activities he was sometimes tasked with during his deployments, including some that one might find unusual for an officer of his rank.  The audience was appreciative of these various insights he provided about deployments, and amazed by the photos he presented depicting the aircraft carrier he deployed from, the various military transport vehicles he was ferried around on (including a hovercraft-like vehicle), and the tight quarters aboard the ship where he was berthed.

CAPT Ralph O’Connor leads Lunch & Learn attendees on a tour of the CDC Emergency Operations Center.
CAPT OConnor

Upon completion of CDR Brunette’s presentation, it was time to move on to a tour of the CDC’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC), located in building 21 on the CDC Roybal campus.   The tour was conducted by CAPT Ralph O’Connor, who is a Health Scientist in the Division of Emergency Operations at CDC’s Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response.  The tour was an excellent opportunity to review the roles that CDC plays during a public health emergency response, and to highlight the role that Commissioned Corps officers may play while deployed to the EOC, in contrast to the field deployments that had been described earlier.

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CDC Commissioned Corps Personnel Office Presents: Pre-Retirement Seminar 
Contributed by CDR Todd Alspach

On May 2-3, 2012, the Atlanta Commissioned Corps Personnel Office hosted a pre-retirement seminar at the Global Communications Center on the Roybal Campus.  The two-day event featured Thomas Berry, the Commissioned Corps Retirement Coordinator, and speakers from the Humana Military, Delta Dental, Military Officer Association of America (MOAA), Navy Mutual Aid Association, Express Scripts, Veterans Administration (VA), Social Security Administration, and Human Capital and Resources Management Office.   The presenters covered a wide variety of topics from each step of the retirement process, providing valuable information and insight to each of the attending officers.
Mr. Berry was the most prominent speaker, detailing the retirement process, retirement pay, and travel and death benefits over the course of two days.  He began his presentation by emphasizing that officers should know their retirement plan and to commit finances toward their retirement.  Mr. Berry went on to describe the many factors to keep in mind during pre-retirement planning, such as  active duty service obligations, getting a physical examination prior to retirement, completing the proper paperwork, and using your remaining leave, among many other considerations.  He then discussed the different retirement options and how they affect an officer’s pay.  Mr. Berry explained the Survivor Benefit Plan and gave an overview of life insurance alternatives, health care insurance, ID cards, social security, and states that exempt retired military pay from income tax.  He concluded each of his sessions with a question and answer period.
The other speakers expanded on some of the topics that Mr. Berry mentioned.  Humana Military Delta Dental explained TRICARE benefit options and eligibility requirements.  The beneficiary costs and coverage of the transition from active duty to retirement were also outlined.  The representative from Navy Mutual detailed the different life insurance options and covered survivor benefits from the Veterans Administration (VA) and Social Security Administration.  Express Scripts highlighted the benefits of their home delivery pharmacy program.  The VA representatives delved into the many benefits they offer for veterans, dependents, and survivors, such as home loans, the GI bill (which is a benefit now transferable to dependents!), and medical support.   The Social Security Administration provided an explanation of their retirement benefits, how you can estimate what they may be, and how to complete retirement-related paperwork online.  Last but not least, the Human Capital and Resources Management Office reviewed the different types of employee categories to which an officer may be appointed after retirement. 

The next pre-retirement seminar is scheduled to be held at the USPHS Training and Symposium in June 2012 at College Park, Maryland.  I strongly encourage every officer to attend at least one of pre-retirement session during the course of their career, and the sooner, the better.  As part of his presentation, Mr. Berry stated 98% of officers who have attended a pre-retirement seminar would advise other officers to do the same, and 76% of officers who did not attend a seminar said it negatively affected their perception of the Corps.  The two-day session provided essential information that all officers should be aware of prior to retirement to ensure a seamless post-service transition.  

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ACOA Officer of the Year 
Contributed by LT Chris Fletcher

In 2011, the Atlanta Commissioned Officers Association (ACOA) developed an Officer of the Year award. The ACOA Officer of the Year award is designed to recognize an officer who clearly demonstrates continual support and dedication to ACOA and its mission throughout each operational year. There are many officers who continually contribute to the mission of ACOA and make ACOA the successful, award-winning branch that it is.  Without their tireless effort, ACOA would exist merely on paper.  As the 2011 ACOA President, I realized it was long past due for ACOA to implement an Officer of the Year award in recognition of an outstanding officer’s contributions.

To develop this new award, I reached out to other branches that already had an Officer of the Year or other similar award for guidance. With the help of the ACOA Executive Committee (EC), I sought to develop the award to select and recognize an officer who greatly contributes to the mission of ACOA. The following criteria are those that the EC developed for use:

•    Officer is a current ACOA member in good standing
•    Officer’s contribution to the mission of ACOA
•    Officer’s participation in ACOA events
•    Officer’s commitment to ACOA above and beyond that observed of most ACOA members
•    Officer’s display of support to ACOA in the following categories: Leadership, Service, Integrity, Excellence

CAPT TierneyAfter the EC voted, the first annual ACOA Officer of the Year award winner was chosen. The EC wanted to present the award at the annual Anchor and Caduceus Dinner in January 2012. As it happened, however, the first annual ACOA Officer of the Year, Captain Bruce Tierney (pictured left with LCDR Jamie Mutter, 2012 ACOA President), was scheduled to be on annual leave and was unable to attend the 2012 Anchor and Caduceus Dinner. Thus, the EC chose to wait and present the award in person to CAPT Tierney at the first ACOA Lunch and Learn of 2012.

CAPT Tierney was recognized for his enormous contributions, longstanding support of and participation in the events and mission of ACOA.

For the January 2011 Anchor and Caduceus Dinner, CAPT Tierney was instrumental in bringing VADM Carmona to Atlanta to serve as the guest of honor and to address the ACOA members and guests who were in attendance. Also In 2011, CAPT Tierney served as an active member of the ACOA Merchandise Committee, where he designed a new PHS athletic shirt and a PHS license plate. In addition, CAPT Tierney attended the 2011 COF Scientific and Training Symposium to lead the effort in selling ACOA esprit de corps merchandise. CAPT Tierney worked closely with the local host branch to ensure that ACOA had an opportunity to sell merchandise during the Symposium to raise funds to support ACOA. His efforts resulted in thousands of dollars of revenue being generated for ACOA. As in previous years, he served as the primary point of contact for sales of ACOA merchandise to ACOA officers at ACOA Lunch and Learn sessions, as well as other venues, and throughout the United States via the ACOA Web site (

CAPT Tierney presents at least one ACOA Lunch and Learn session on uniforms annually and provides updates on uniforms by writing several articles for the ACOA Web site each year, many of which go on to be referenced by PHS officers across the country.

CAPT Tierney’s contributions to ACOA have been substantial and have directly resulted in a larger, stronger, and more visible organization.  CAPT Tierney has been a tremendous asset to ACOA for years.  His efforts have strengthened the organization and have provided a direct benefit to hundreds of ACOA officers.

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Atlanta ACOA Veterinarians Earn 2012 Awards 
CAPT Hugh Mainzer, CDR Renee Funk, and LCDR Heather Bair-Brake

Editors’ Note: ACOA officers support not only the missions of the USPHS, their agencies, and ACOA, but also their categories.  ACOA officers represent various categories, and as you will read below, three veterinary ACOA officers were recognized for their substantial contributions, including, among others, efforts related to emergency preparedness and response, communication with the public, and promotion and support of the Veterinary category. The awards were presented to the officers at the 61st Epidemic Intelligence Service Conference in Atlanta in April.

2012 Commissioned Corps Veterinary Responder of the Year Award: CDR Renee Funk

The 2012 Veterinary Responder of the Year Award for the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) Commissioned Corps has been given to CDR Renee Funk, DVM, MPH&TM, DACVPM, of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), for her dedication to emergency preparedness and response. During CDC’s response to the novel H1N1 influenza pandemic in 2009, CDR Funk provided senior-level subject matter expertise on respiratory protection and assisted in the development of numerous guidance documents and surveillance tools. She was the lead author on key infection control guidance and interim policies relative to the protection of U.S. swine herds and swine workers. Additionally, she led NIOSH efforts to update and expand the CDC influenza illness surveillance systems to include new occupation-related variables that had not previously existed prior to her initiative.

During the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill response in 2010, she created and implemented a comprehensive responder roster and exposure surveillance system. CDR Funk created two novel surveillance tools to capture information about responders upon initial hire and after exposure. She documented the scope of work to facilitate U.S. Coast Guard funding of the field-based data collection effort across five states. Additionally, she led the development of mechanisms to collect, transmit, and analyze over 55,000 data collection forms and the development of a Web-based electronic roster mechanism. This effort resulted in the first federal roster of emergency response and remediation workers ever conducted during a major disaster event and served as the inspiration for a long-term NIOSH study on the public health impact of the event.

CDR Funk conceived, promoted, and received NIOSH research funding for the Emergency Responder Health Monitoring and Surveillance (ERHMS) project. ERHMS goals include developing a comprehensive program to detect, monitor, and control disaster-related health and safety hazards for the protection of the response workforce during each phase of a disaster. As is evident, CDR Funk has made consistent and important contributions to emergency planning and response by developing new and effective strategies that can better ensure emergency responder safety and health, and ACOA is proud to congratulate our member, CDR Renee Funk, Commissioned Corps Veterinary Responder of the Year.

2012 Commissioned Corps Junior Veterinarian Officer of the Year Award: LCDR Heather Bair-Brake

The 2012 Junior Veterinarian Officer of the Year award for the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) Commissioned Corps has been given to LCDR Heather Bair-Brake, MS, DVM, DACVPM, of CDC, for her contributions to the mission of the Commissioned Corps and the CDC.  LCDR Bair-Brake is currently assigned to CDC’s Quarantine Border and Health Services Branch within the Division of Global Migration and Quarantine (DGMQ), where she serves as a Veterinary Medical Officer and health communicator. Since joining DGMQ in 2009, she co-authored and directed the development of the online continuing education course, Yellow Fever: Information for Health Care Professionals Advising Travelers, which has become required training for provider certification in five states, Canada, and Scotland, and has won three prestigious CDC awards. She developed and delivered training on CDC’s animal importation regulations for >100 quarantine station staff located at 19 international ports of entry, and she assists in preparing new regulations related to animal importation and  communicating changes to the public. In addition, she conducted formative research on bushmeat importation and arranged for focus groups of African expatriates to be held in Atlanta.

During her time at CDC, LCDR Bair-Brake developed an important public health program focusing on appropriate antibiotic use in agriculture called “Get Smart on the Farm,” and acted as the liaison between CDC and several food-animal producer groups. One of her biggest successes was the development and maintenance of a Web site for the pet-owning public called “Health Pets Healthy People,” which reaches over 500,000 people in 52 countries each year and has been featured in newspapers and magazine articles.

During CDC’s H1N1 pandemic influenza response, she was responsible for drafting the first Traveler Health Alert Notice (10 million copies printed and distributed at 327 ports of entry) and the CDC Travel Warning (viewed by over 1 million). In the last year, she worked in CDC’s Emergency Operations Center for the Japan Radiation response and wrote guidance for quarantine station staff on handling radiation-contaminated pets, passengers, and luggage. For all of her work, we extend congratulations to ACOA member LCDR Bair-Brake, Commissioned Corps Junior Veterinarian Officer of the Year.

2012 Commissioned Corps Veterinarian Officer of the Year Award: CAPT Hugh Mainzer

The 2012 Veterinarian of the Year award of the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) Commissioned Corps has been given to CAPT Hugh Mainzer, MS, DVM, DACVPM, of CDC, for his contributions to the mission of the Commissioned Corps and CDC.  Throughout his career, CAPT Mainzer has done much to support Commissioned Corps veterinarians. From May 2007 to October 2011, he served as Chief Veterinary Officer, providing strong leadership to the veterinary category. He has offered career counseling and promotion preparation advice to veterinary officers and has personally recruited many of the veterinarians currently on active duty in the USPHS. CAPT Mainzer has responded to numerous public health emergencies and deployed on humanitarian aid missions. Drawing from those experiences, he has encouraged many other officers to do the same and to serve actively on USPHS Tier I and II response teams.

CAPT Mainzer has worked towards increasing the number of veterinarians serving in the federal workforce. He was recently named Chair of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management Interagency Talent Management Advisory Council on the Federal Veterinary Workforce. As Chair, he has led the effort to describe the veterinary staffing needs and resources in the federal workforce, highlighting for key policy makers the critical skill sets that veterinarians contribute to public health, and identifying gaps in veterinary personnel resources.

In addition to his leadership roles and administrative accomplishments, CAPT Mainzer has furthered veterinary public health through research and numerous published manuscripts, book chapters, and professional presentations. For all of these contributions, ACOA congratulates our own CAPT Mainzer, Commissioned Corps Veterinarian of the Year.

CAPT Mainzer

Congratulations, CAPT Mainzer, CDR Renee Funk, LCDR Bair-Brake!  ACOA salutes you all!

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Make Paying Your COA/ACOA Dues Easy With Automatic Draft 
LCDR Adriane Niare, USPHS and LCDR Shane Davis

Did you know that you have the option to pay as little as $9 per month for your COA/ACOA membership dues? 

That’s right! Instead of getting a lump sum annual dues statement, opt to pay your membership dues through monthly automatic drafts from your paycheck.  There are no additional fees associated with automatic draft payments and your membership will automatically renew each year.

Setting up these automatic payments is easy! To get started, contact Malissa Spalding, COA membership coordinator, at or call toll-free: 866-366-9593.When you call, be sure ACOA is listed as your local branch affiliation.

The membership year starts July 1, but if you renew today, dues will be applied to the 2012-2013 operational year.  So make it easy and sign up for automatic draft today!

Are you already on automatic draft payments?

If you have changed rank from LT to LCDR within the past year OR have switched agencies, contact Malissa Spalding to update this information to avoid draft payments being suspended.

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ACOA’s Social Media Adventures
LT Chris Fletcher

FacebookAtlanta COA is now on Facebook. ACOA intends to post announcements, topical information, and photos on the Facebook page. It also will be a great place for members to post their own photos of ACOA events and engage in discussions. Please remember to “Like” us on Facebook next time you log on!
 QR code
An emerging technology that ACOA is also embracing is the Quick Response Code or QR Code. You have probably noticed these matrix barcodes beginning to appear everywhere from products on store shelves, to signs at conferences, and many other places. QR codes also can provide the user with information, maps, or just about anything the programmer wants to provide. Using a smart phone, one can scan these QR Codes, which, in the case of ACOA’s QR Code, will take the user to the ACOA Store page on our Web site. Look for the ACOA merchandise booth at the upcoming COF Symposium to see our new, custom QR code displayed, or check it out now with your smart phone and QR reader app.

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Metlife Begins TRICARE Dental Program Partnership
CDR Leslie Leonard

Starting May 1, 2012, Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, Inc. (MetLife) is the new TRICARE Dental Program contractor(TDP), providing dental benefits for more than 2 million TRICARE beneficiaries worldwide.  Beneficiaries purchasing TDP will see expanded dental benefits beginning May 1, with lower monthly premiun rates than last year.  More details about premiums cost can be found on the MetLife TDP Website.
Some TDP enhancements include an increased annual benefit maximum of $1,300, and a lifetime orthodontic maximum of $1,750.  New expanded coverage includes an additional annual maximum of $1,200 for dental accident coverage and no cost shares for deep cleaning for diabetic patients. 

TDP information is available by calling 1-855-638-8371 in the U.S., 1-855-638-8372 outside the United States, or online through the MetLife TDP Website.  The Web site has more information about costs, coverage details, and finding a provider.  Beneficiaries can use the “Find a Dentist” feature to locate one of the 168,000 MetLife dental access points.  For more information about TRICARE’s dental programs, go to  You can also contact CDR Leslie Leonard, Health Benefits Advisor, CDC Commissioned Corps Personnel Branch, at or 404-498-1818. 

Source:  TRICARE Management Activity,

ACOA Store

ACOA Store