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 1                                                                                              March 2012


President's Column

1. Run or Volunteer! USPHS Marine Corps Marathon Team, Sunday, October 28, 2012
2. USPHS Merchandise for Sale

1. Operation Give-a-Life
2. Fifth Annual ACOA Anchor and Caduceus Dinner a Huge Success!
3. A Holiday Event to Remember!
4. CDC/ATSDR All Hands Meeting on 1/27/2012
5. Uniformed Service Challenge Coins History and Traditions
President's Column

Jamie Mutter, LCDR, USPHS, ACOA President

Welcome to the New Year! I am so excited to be your President for this year. Before I jump in to tell you all we have in store for this year, I want to take a moment to thank the outgoing 2011 President, LT Chris Fletcher. He has done an excellent job as President and taught me so much along the way. He is a great mentor and I want to congratulate him on a job well done. I hope I can live up to the great line of President’s that have preceded me.

I would also be remiss if I did not acknowledge two hard working people, CDR Todd Alspach and LCDR Dianna Carroll (2011 Events Planning Co-Chairs). They worked tirelessly, along with their committee, to organize the 2012 Anchor and Caduceus Dinner and it was a huge success. It was a lovely evening and we hope to repeat the success next year. If you were not able to make it this year, please put it on your radar for next year, you won’t regret it.

So what do we have in store for this year you ask? All of ACOA’s Committees are working hard to increase the visibility and officer participation within ACOA. The Communications Committee is working to update our website and we hope to unveil a new ACOA Facebook page soon (more details to come on this in the near future). The Community Service Committee is always busy so please stay tuned to the listserv for announcements on upcoming volunteer opportunities. The Professional Development Committee has new ideas for Lunch and Learns that should really enhance professional development knowledge for officers. The Professional Development Committee will also offer APFT’s and official officer portraits in 2012; stay tuned for more information regarding those opportunities. The Event’s Planning Committee is also hard at work planning for the Summer Promotion Ceremony and if you can believe it, the 2013 Anchor and Caduceus Dinner.

The Merchandise and Special Projects Committee is in the process of deciding what merchandise to create and sell at this year’s COF Symposium. If you have any merchandise ideas, please send them to the Committee Chair, LCDR Sue Sloop. In addition, if you have uniforms or uniform components that you would like to donate to ACOA, please contact LCDR Sloop. These donations greatly assist officers in maintaining uniforms, particularly new officer, and are essential to ACOA and we greatly appreciate any uniform donation.

Last, but certainly not least, the Membership Committee is going to focus on increasing ACOA’s membership this year. I would like to challenge all ACOA members to talk to officers around them to see if they are COA/ACOA members and if they aren’t, please explain to the officers all of the benefits that COA/ACOA can provide them. Please direct officers to the ACOA website under Membership to see all the benefits that ACOA offers and how they can join COA/ACOA. For more questions about COA/ACOA membership, please contact LCDR Shane Davis (ACOA Membership Chair).

I would like to end my column by saying Thank You to the ACOA members. You all make it such a pleasure to be in the position that I am in. I am always open to hear any suggestions that you feel will make ACOA a better/stronger organization. Until next time…


LCDR Jamie Mutter

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1. Run or Volunteer! USPHS Marine Corps Marathon Team, Sunday, October 28, 2012 in Arlington VA

DC COA is establishing a USPHS Marine Corps Marathon Team for 2012 and is assembling a group of runners and volunteers. They invite all interested Atlanta Officers to join them on this journey!

This year the race will be held on Sunday, October 28 in Arlington, VA. Active Duty and Reserve service members can register early during an exclusive two-week period from February 23 through March 6. Service members will receive a 15% discount. Registration for the general public opens on Wednesday, March 7 at 1500 EST.

If you are interested in joining the USPHS Marine corps Marathon Team, please contact ( CAPT Mark Freese) and ( LTJG Kazu Okumura) by Friday, March 2, 2012.

2. 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.

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Operation Give-a-Life
Contributed by LT Brek Steel

The Commissioned Officers Association (COA) has started the collaborative public health campaign called “Operation Give-a-Life.” COA received guidance and support from several previous Surgeons General and Acting Surgeons Generals, as well as the Association of Organ Procurement Organization and the National Marrow Donor Program. This Corps-wide campaign provides a life giving opportunity for everyone.

As Public Health Service Commissioned Officers, you have dedicated yourselves as leaders in service to the public trust to improve the health of the Nation. With the love and support of your families and often your communities at large, you guide the adoption of healthier behaviors and attitudes. Sometimes, we have the opportunity to give s omething of ourselves that will ultimately save a life or provide a living legacy. It is this higher calling that we appeal to with our newest campaign.

Commissioned Corps Active Duty Officers, retirees, and their family members are among the 111,000 people currently awaiting transplant, organ donation, tissue donation, or a stem cell transplant. As of today, they have no matched donor. What better way to illustrate your commitment to advancing the public health of this Nation as an entire service than to join together and Give-a-Life?

Becoming an Organ Donor
We all know that organ and tissue transplantation gives hope to thousands of people with organ failure and changes the lives of many others. Possible donations include heart, lung, liver, kidneys, pancreas, small bowel, corneas, ligaments, and bone. But the need continues to vastly outnumber supply. The statistics from August 2011 are that 111,736 patients are waiting organ transplants alone, with many more needing tissue or corneal transplant. Over 60,000 of those patients are described as multi-cultural and pediatric patients.

COA recognizes that many Officers and their family members are already donors, but for those that aren’t Operation Give-a-Life is your opportunity! COA recommends that every officer sign a donor card, as well as talk to his or her family members and neighbors to recruit them to make a similar commitment.

Where do you get a donor card?
You and your friends and family can use this card. The card and a brief survey can be found at:
The last page of the document has a printable version of a donor card that you and your friends and family can use. The donor card can be copied and used in community-wide registration drives. The signed card should then be permanently carried in the donor’s wallet or purse.

Please also register with the National Marrow Donor Registry
Bone marrow/stem cell transplantation is now a godsend for many patients suffering from many malignant and non-malignant bone marrow diseases. Stem cell transplant can be the only effective method of enabling a patient’s bone marrow to produce healthy white blood cells, red blood cells, and/or platelets, and reduce the risk of life-threatening infections, anemias, or bleeding. Stem cell transplantation can replace dysfunctional bone marrow such as that found in aplastic anemia. Also, the stem cell transplant process can also destroy unhealthy bone marrow that may be creating certain cancer cells, followed by the transplantation of healthy stem cells that can enable normal cell production.

To be considered as a potential bone marrow/stem cell donor, Officers must submit a blood draw or a buccal swab to the National Marrow Donor Program. This blood draw or buccal swab does not involve any expense to the Officer or their family. Successfully matching a donor with a patient must entail a very high probability of resulting in a positive outcome for the patient. Therefore, it is very desirable to substantially increase the donor pool so that the receiving patient has every chance for a successful result. The choice of donation is yours, and becoming a member of the donor pool is not a binding commitment.

When you join the registry online, you will be sent a registration kit to give a swab of cheek cells. Instructions are in the kit. If you join in person at a donor registry drive, the “Be The Match” representatives can explain how to use the swab kit. The sample you provide will be used to match you to patients. Please visit to register or find upcoming donor registry events.

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Fifth Annual ACOA Anchor and Caduceus Dinner a Huge Success!
Contributed by LCDR Dianna Carroll and CDR Todd Alspach

The Fifth Annual Atlanta Commissioned Officers Association (ACOA) Anchor and Caduceus Dinner held Saturday January 28th was a great success. For the second year in a row, tickets sold out well before this much anticipated event. This year’s dinner was held at Druid Hills Golf Club, prominently situated in the heart of the historic Druid Hills neighborhood with its abundance of stately oaks, magnificent maples, and wooded landscape. The Club provided an elegant atmosphere as it and the surrounding area resonates with a historical beauty that provided an impressive backdrop for the pomp and circumstance of the evening.

Officers and their guests were treated to an evening of exceptional speakers. Deputy Surgeon General RADM Boris Lushniak, gave an inspiring keynote address that highlighted what it means to be a PHS officer. COA Executive Director Jerry Farrell, (CAPT, USN, Retired) provided the audience with important updates on COA efforts to support Corps officers and encouraged Atlanta officers to increase ACOA membership. He also introduced COA’s Operation Give-a-Life program and partnership with the National Marrow Donor Program.

Several of our Atlanta-based leadership attended and contributed to the evening’s visibility and success: RADM William Bailey, Chief Dental Officer; RADM Sven Rodenbeck, Chief Engineer Officer; RADM Cara Cobb, Regional Health Administrator of Region IV; RADM (ret) Robert C. Williams, former Deputy Surgeon General; CAPT Sharon Williams-Fleetwood, Chief Scientist Officer; and CAPT Doris Ravenell-Brown, Director of the Atlanta Commissioned Corps Personnel Branch. CAPT Hugh Mainzer, former Chief Veterinary Officer, was honored at the dinner by RADMs Bailey and Rodenbeck and CAPT Williams-Fleetwood for his outstanding contributions to the Veterinary Category while CPO.

While the evening was filled with formality and protocol, there was plenty of fun as well. CAPT Bruce Tierney served as Master of Ceremonies for several previous Anchor and Caduceus Dinners but was unable to attend this year’s event. However, he provided a humorous cinematic reflection filmed from an “undisclosed” location in Argentina that was curiously similar to a local Atlanta restaurant. Co-starring in this film was CDR Lauren Zapata who superbly played the role of an Argentinian tango dancer whisking CAPT Tierney away. CAPT Tierney’s video provided levity and set the stage for the rest of the evening. Thus, the torch was passed to Masters of Ceremonies CDR Ed Dieser and CAPT Mehran Massoudi who performed their duties with unparalleled poise. CDR Dieser took control of the podium and kept us on schedule while interjecting many fun moments, including his plea to the audience to move his wife away from the competitive bidding at the silent auction tables. CAPT Massoudi introduced RADM Lushniak with a humorous slide presentation entitled “Who is Boris Lushniak”. The presentation chronicled RADM Lushniak’s career from an EIS Officer up through his rise to Deputy Surgeon General.

No Anchor and Caduceus Dinner would be complete without a cake cutting ceremony. RADM Lushniak did the honors by cutting the special USPHS birthday cake with a PHS sword. This closed the formal program and officers and their guests danced to music performed by the Hansen-Karell Band, whose bass player is none other than ACOA’s CAPT Joe Little.

Throughout the evening, ACOA hosted a silent auction and raffle to raise funds for the Commissioned Officers Foundation Dependent Scholarship Fund. There were many wonderful items contributed and the bidding competition was fun and intense! One of the most hotly contested items was ACOA’s PHS merchandise basket, particularly after RADM Lushniak donated his personal PHS coin to the gift package. A total of $1746 was raised at the Dinner. The Anchor and Caduceus Planning Committee would like to acknowledge the generous contributions of the following individuals and businesses that made our raffle and silent auction a resounding success.

• Alexandar Salon
• Intown Ace Hardware
• CDR Todd Alspach
• CAPT John Iskander
• Atlanta Commissioned Officers Association
• Le Caveau Fine Wines
• Bank of America
• CAPT Julie Magri
• CAPT Diana Bensyl and Mr. Rick Bensyl,
• Maison Robert Fine Chocolates Av-Fun, LLC
• LCDR Danielle Mills
• LCDR Dianna Carroll
• Pappi Tates Domestic & Import Auto Service
• Chinese Shaolin Center Intown
• Parker's on Ponce
• Dara Broadus Golf
• Penang Restaurant
• Farmburger
• Penang Restaurant
• Galla's Pizza
• Ted's Montana Grill
• Google
• Three Blind Mice
• Graco
• Whole World Improv Theater
• LCDR Tchernavia Gregory
• RADM Robert Williams (Ret)

The successful evening was due to all the hard work and dedication of the Anchor and Caduceus Planning Committee. The Committee would like to extend a special thank you to all participants, attendees, and honored guests as well as the Atlanta Honor Cadre, for making ACOA’s Fifth Annual Anchor and Caduceus Dinner a memorable night.

Fifth Annual Anchor and Caduceus Planning Committee
CDR Todd Alspach, Chair, LCDR Dianna Carroll, Co-Chair, CAPT Mehran Massoudi, Co-Master of Ceremonies, CDR Ed Dieser, Co-Master of Ceremonies, LCDR Deborah Dee, Social Secretary, CDR Danice Eaton, Logistics Chair, LT Erin Grasso, Public Relations Chair, CDR Jenny Williams, Venue, CAPT Hugh Mainzer, Invocation, CAPT Joe Little, CAPT Craig Wilkins, CDR Karen Abe, CDR Rachel Avchen, CDR Andrea Sharma, LCDR Jabal Chase, LCDR Tchernavia Gregory, LCDR Malaika Washington, LCDR Paula Peters, LT Chris Fletcher, LT Shauna Mettee

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Atlanta based Chief Professional Officers honoring CAPT Hugh Mainzer for his outstanding contributions to the Veterinary Category while CPO. (From L-R) CAPT Sharon Williams-Fleetwood, CAPT Mainzer, RADM Sven Rodenbeck, and RADM William Bailey.

CAPT Mehran Massoudi introducing keynote speaker Deputy Surgeon General, RADM Boris Lushniak.

RADM Lushniak selecting the raffle winner with LT Erin Grasso and CDR Ed Dieser.

The Hansen-Karrell Band performing at the Anchor and Caduceus Dinner, which includes ACOA’s CAPT Joe Little playing bass.

A Holiday Event to Remember!
Contributed by LCDR Sherene Cora and LCDR Jocelyn Patterson

The ACOA Community Service Committee closed out 2011 with a bang by continuing the long standing annual tradition of hosting the Atlanta United Services Organization (USO) Holiday Event. 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. The Atlanta USO’s flagship operation is located in 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. During the winter holiday season the Atlanta USO is particularly busy supporting service men and women leaving the field for R&R and returning to duty. Atlanta Commissioned Officers came together and hosted a wonderful 24 hour event from 12am – 11:59pm on December 17, 2011.

This year we were fortunate to have an overflow of interest in volunteering and donations to support this event. We received nearly $250 in monetary contributions from fellow USPHS Officers. There was a plethora of other food donations like bottled water, supplies, and home cooked treats. The event subcommittee spearheaded an effort to solicit donations from businesses in the community and collected a record amount of outside donations. We received gift cards from BJ’s Wholesale Club, Sam’s Club, and Kroger supermarket. There were a number of in-kind donations including 4 cases of water from Publix supermarket and 5 large pizza s from Papa Johns. Last but certainly not least, the CDC Garden Market’s Stacey Wilkerson, of S and H Produce, donated over 15 cases of fruit, vegetables, and salad. Fellow officers also donated books, magazines, and games.

The Holiday party was a lot like the monthly events but on a larger scale. Approximately 30 officers staffed the USO suite, managed the kitchen, served food, watched luggage, greeted service men and women, and answered questions. We compiled the donations and provided 3 hot meals. The menu consisted of a smorgasbord of delicious treats that were well received by weary travelers. Eggs, bacon, sausage, grits, and oatmeal were served for breakfast. Chili dogs, pizzas, and sandwiches were served during lunch. Dinner included lasagna, homemade spaghetti and meatballs, salad, and fresh cut vegetables. Fresh fruit – oranges, apples, and bananas were available throughout the day.

Over 2500 service men and women passed through the Atlanta USO during our 24 hour event. The Atlanta USO coordinator, Mary Lou Austin, was thrilled with our participation, coordination, and donations. We look forward to 2012 monthly events and are hoping for an even more spectacular holiday event in 2012!

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Retired Officer Charles Hemlick, CAPT Bruce Tierney, CAPT Stardust Mazzariello serve hot lasagna

LCDR Monica Leonard, LT Eboni Taylor, LT Shauna Mette greet service men and women with smiles

CDC/ATSDR All Hands Meeting on 1/27/2012
Contributed by LT Neelam D. Ghiya and LTJG Roberto C. Garza

On January 27 2012, the CDC/ATSDR Commissioned Corps Personnel Office (CCPO), led by CAPT Doris Ravenell-Brown, and the Senior Commissioned Corps Flag Officers, held the CDC/ATSDR Commissioned Corps All Hands meeting. Special guests included RADM Anne Schuchat, Director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD), RADM William Bailey, Chief Dental Officer, and RADM Sven E. Rodenbeck, Chief Engineer Officer. RADM Boris Lushniak, Deputy Surgeon General, delivered the keynote address for this event.

The meeting began with several CDC staff being recognized with the Surgeon General’s Award of Appreciation. These included CAPT April Shaw and CDR Amanda Dunnick for their years of excellent service in the CPPO. James Gathany, CDC photographer, received both the Surgeon General's Award of Appreciation and the Atlanta Commissioned Officers Association Certificate of Appreciation (ACOA) for his professional photography contributions to the USPHS Uniform Regulations and for his longstanding work in providing USPHS Officers with high quality professional photographs.

In his main address, RADM Lushniak discussed a number of important topics., including the commissioning of new officers and the new five pillars that will drive this process in the future (for more on the five pillars, please read the JOAG Journal, Vol. 19, page 6, which can be found at RADM Lushniak framed the many upcoming changes by quoting Retired U.S. Army General Eric K. Shinseki, U.S. Secretary of Veteran Affairs, who observed that "if you dislike change, you're going to dislike irrelevance even more." With this in mind, RADM Lushniak exhorted all USPHS Officers to continue to serve our nation with distinction.

RADM Lushniak also covered a variety of topics during the Q&A part of his presentation. These included matters related to promotions, possible changes in uniforms, the billet transformation process, and travel to national USPHS-related conferences. RADM Lushniak concluded his presentation by thanking all officers for attending this All Hands and noting that he hoped to see many of them at the Fifth Annual ACOA Anchor and Caduceus Dinner.

ACOA President LCDR Jamie Mutter with CDC Photographer James Gathany, who received a Certificate of Appreciation from the Surgeon General for increasing the visibility of the USPH.

RADM Borish Lushniak with CDC’S CAPT April Shaw and CAPT Doris Ravenell-Brown

RADM Boris Lushniak with CDC’s CDR Amanda Dunnick and CAPT Doris Ravenell-Brown

Uniformed Service Challenge Coins History and Traditions
Contributed by LCDR John Halpin

If you ask any member of the military, active or retired, if they happen to have with them any memorabilia which indicates the unit they belong or belonged to, the most likely item they will show you is their Unit coin. Unit coins, often referred to as Challenge coins, have been around since at least World War I, and are often carried by members of a military unit to prove that they are a proud member. They are often called Challenge coins because, per tradition, a Unit member can challenge other members of a unit to prove that they are proud members by demonstrating that they have the Unit coin on their person at the time of the challenge. Such a challenge could occur anytime, but the most common situation is at a drinking establishment or social gathering. There are various stories which circulate regarding the true origin of the unit coin and the challenge tradition associated with it. The most frequent and commonly cited tale however is based on a story of an airman from World War I whose life was saved partly because he had his Unit coin with him even as a prisoner of war. Here is that story:

During World War I, American volunteers from all parts of the country filled the newly formed flying squadrons. Some were wealthy scions attending colleges such as Yale and Harvard who quit in mid-term to join the war. In one squadron, a wealthy lieutenant ordered medallions struck in solid bronze and presented them to his unit. One young pilot placed the medallion in a small leather pouch that he wore about his neck.

Shortly after acquiring the medallions, the pilots’ aircraft was severely damaged by ground fire. He was forced to land behind enemy lines and was immediately captured by a German patrol. In order to discourage his escape, the Germans took all of his personal identification except for the small leather pouch around his neck. In the meantime, he was taken to a small French town near the front. Taking advantage of a bombardment that night, he escaped. However, he was without personal identification.

He succeeded in avoiding German patrols by donning civilian attire and reached the front lines. With great difficulty, he crossed no-man's land. Eventually, he stumbled onto a French outpost. Unfortunately, saboteurs had plagued the French in the sector. They sometimes masqueraded as civilians and wore civilian clothes. Not recognizing the young pilot’s American accent, the French thought him to be a saboteur and made ready to execute him. He had no identification to prove his allegiance, but he did have his leather pouch containing the medallion. He showed the medallion to his would-be executioners and one of his French captors recognized the squadron insignia on the medallion. They delayed his execution long enough for him to confirm his identity. Instead of shooting him they gave him a bottle of wine.

Back at his squadron, it became tradition to ensure that all members carried their medallion or coin at all times. This was accomplished through challenge in the following manner - a challenger would ask to see the medallion. If the challenged could not produce a medallion, they were required to buy a drink of choice for the member who challenged them. If the challenged member produced a medallion, then the challenging member was required to pay for the drink. This tradition continued on throughout the war and for many years after the war while surviving members of the squadron were still alive.

Thus began the proud tradition of challenge coins, which continues to this day. Challenge coins can be issued once a member first is officially inducted into a unit, or it may be issued to members to improve morale or as reward for a job well done. The Commissioned Corps has a wide array of challenge coins that have been issued by various organizations (e.g., JOAG, CDC, FDA) and units (e.g., professional categories) within the Corps. They often are designed not only to represent the Unit for whom it is issued, but also to represent the values and characteristics of an exemplary Commissioned Corps officer. Here is an example of a coin issued by the Junior Officer Advisory Group of the Commissioned Corps (JOAG), which on the reverse side contains an excerpt from the JOAG Officer’s Code of Conduct, which highlights the ideals for which all officers should strive.

The Atlanta Commissioned Corps Officer’s Association is now offering a challenge coin that signifies one’s proud membership in U.S. Public Health Service and with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. The coin is available for $10, and a limited number of blue velvet display boxes and protective acrylic coin cases are available for sale. Contact CAPT Bruce Tierney at 770 488 0771 or to order.

For those of you who already have a Unit coin from the Commissioned Corps, I encourage you to carry them with you to commissioned corps social events, and try your hand at issuing a “Challenge.” Here’s a summary of the unofficial rules regarding the traditional procedure for issuing such a challenge.

A. The challenge is initiated by drawing your coin, holding it in the air by whatever means possible and state, scream, shout or otherwise verbally acknowledge that you are initiating a coin check. Another, but less vocal method is to firmly place it on the bar, table, or floor (this should produce an audible noise which can be easily heard by those being challenged, but try not to leave a permanent imprint). If you accidentally drop your coin and it makes an audible sound upon impact, then you have just “accidentally” initiated a coin check. (This is called paying the price for improper care of your coin.)

B. The response consists of all those persons being challenged drawing their coin in a like manner.

C. If you are challenged and are unable to properly respond, you must buy a round of drinks for the challenger and the group being challenged.

D. If everyone being challenged responds in the correct manner, the challenger must buy a round of drinks for all those people they challenged.


A. Coin checks are permitted, ANY TIME, ANY PLACE.


A. There are no exceptions to the rules. They apply to those clothed or unclothed. At the time of the challenge you are permitted one step and then an arm’s reach to locate your coin. If you still cannot reach it -- SORRY ABOUT THAT!

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