The Signal Newsletter

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

Vol 19, Issue 4                                                                                              September / October 2009


Calendar of Events

1. ACOA Fall Social at Piedmont Park
2. Volunteers Needed for USO (United Services Organizations)
3. ACOA Uniform Store
4. PHS Flag Sales
5. An Invitation to Join “The Surgeon General’s Own”

1. Atlanta Area USPHS Commissioned Corps Promotion Ceremony
2. The Field Medical Readiness Badge – what is it, and how can I get it?
3. Atlanta Community Food Bank
4. Commissioned Officers Effectiveness Reports
5. The Truth about Functional Foods

President's Column

Calendar of Events

Lunch and Learn. Thursday, October 22, 1130 to 1300, CDC, Chamblee Campus, Building 106, Room 1A. Topic: Getting Ready for Promotion. Contact: CAPT Marta Guerra 404.639.3951.

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ACOA Fall Social at Piedmont Park

Attention Atlanta PHS officers! The sun is out and so are we--this year the ACOA Fall Social will be held at Piedmont Park. Buy your tickets today to get outside and play with your fellow officers, enjoy good food, and work on that "out-of-office" tan. The 2009 Fall Social will be on Saturday, October 3rd from 4:00 pm to 7:00 pm, at the main pavilion. Tickets are $5 (children under 6 are free) and must be purchased by September 23, 2009. For more information, please contact LCDR Michael King. Make checks payable to ACOA and mail to LCDR King (MS F-58, CDC, 4770 Buford Highway, Chamblee, GA 30341).

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Volunteers Needed for USO (United Service Organizations)

The USO’s mission is to enhance the quality of life of the United States Armed Forces personnel and their families worldwide. They provide variety of services and programs to help alleviate some of the stresses and burdens placed upon military families. In addition, USO helps foster cooperative relationships between military and civilian communities.

Their flagship operation is the USO Jean Amos Center at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. This USO Center, strategically located in the world’s busiest airport, assists thousands of active duty and their families, annually.

The Atlanta Commissioned Officer's Association (ACOA) is seeking volunteers to take part in supporting the Jean R. Amos USO Center at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. We staff the USO on the 3rd Saturday of each month in two shifts.

Shift 1 is from 0900 to 1200

Shift 2 is from 1200 to 1500

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


Saturday, September 19 Shift 1 and Shift 2
Saturday, October 17 Shift 1 and Shift 2
Saturday, November 21 Shift 1 and Shift 2

LT Bret Nickels is the coordinator for USO-ACOA officer activities. If you would like to volunteer, please contact LT Bret Nickels to let him know which day you are available.

Consider volunteering. Be a part of sharing our camaraderie and community service to those who serve in the uniformed service. This is a wonderful and rewarding opportunity for everyone!

Thank you for your support!

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ACOA Uniform Store

Did you know ACOA has a uniform swap store? If you have uniforms to donate, wish to purchase gently used uniform components (at discount rates), or if you would like to swap gently used uniforms/shoulder boards, contact LT Chris Fletcher, 770.488.0755 for uniform components.

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PHS Flag Sales

In an effort to support esprit de corps, as well as to raise funds to support organization activities, ACOA developed and sells full-size USPHS flags and US/USPHS miniature flag desk sets. These flags are available for purchase by USPHS officers and civilians nationwide. These flags were purchased for use by the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA), as retirement, birthday and holiday gifts, and much more. The full size PHS flag design is not readily available from any other source and makes a great addition to your home or office. It can also serve as a great gift for fellow officers on any special occasion.

ACOA members can purchase the full-size USPHS flag for $50 and USPHS flags desk set for $16. Non-members pay $55 and $18, respectively. For more information, please contact LT Chris Fletcher, 770.488.0755.

USPHS full-size flag US/USPHS miniature flag desk set

Please note: These items are for personal use. The USPHS flag is not intended to replace official USPHS flags, as noted in Subchapter CC29.9 of the Commissioned Corps Personnel Manual.

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An Invitation to Join “The Surgeon General’s Own” United States Public Health Service (USPHS) Commissioned Corps Music Ensemble

The USPHS Ensemble consists of three groups: Choral Group, Wind Group, and Chamber Group. Currently, approximately 75 active duty PHS officers stationed throughout the U.S. (i.e., Washington, DC; Atlanta; Butner, NC, etc.) are performing members of “The Surgeon General’s Own.”

The mission of the USPHS Ensemble is to provide musical support for formal and informal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and appropriate non-HHS sponsored events. The USPHS Ensemble provides a valuable service to HHS, enhances visibility of the Commissioned Corps and engenders esprit-de-corps. Each year, the USPHS Ensemble performs at the Commissioned Officers Foundation USPHS Scientific and Training Symposium.

Both the Choral and Wind Groups of the Atlanta-area USPHS Ensemble are looking for new members with a passion for music, a dedication to the Corps, and are seeking a highly rewarding opportunity.

The Atlanta-area Choral Group rehearses every other Tuesday from 1730 to 1830 in the CDC Century Center Campus Office Park, Building 2400, First Floor Conference Room.

The Atlanta-area Winds Group rehearses Wednesdays from 1700 to 1800 Bldg 11, Corporate Square.

For more information about the Atlanta-area Choral Group, please visit our website or contact CDR Januett P. Smith-George.

For more information about the Atlanta-area Winds Group, please contact CAPT Mary Reichler.

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Atlanta Area United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps Promotion Ceremony
Contributed by LCDR Michael King

On July 24th, the Atlanta Commissioned Officers Association (ACOA), in conjunction with CDC/ATSDR, hosted the Annual Atlanta Area USPHS Commissioned Corps Promotion Ceremony in Auditorium A, Building 19, at CDC’s Roybal Campus. This year we were very excited to have officers participating in the ceremony from many federal agencies, including the Bureau of Prisons, Health Resources and Services Administration, the Department of Homeland Security, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

During the ceremony, invited officers, guests, family members, and colleagues heard welcoming remarks from CDR Ross Spears, President, ACOA, who also served as the Master of Ceremonies for the event. RADM Steven Solomon, the Director of the Coordinating Center for Health Information and Service at CDC provided congratulatory remarks on behalf of Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, the Director of CDC/ATSDR. RADM Clara Cobb, Regional Health Administrator, Region IV and Acting Regional Director for Region IV, also offered congratulatory remarks on behalf of the many Commissioned Officers in the Atlanta area who serve other agencies in the Department of Health and Human Services as well as the many other agencies across the federal government. The keynote address was given by RADM Robert C. Williams, Acting US Deputy Surgeon General. RADM Williams gave an inspiring keynote address about the Corps.

The ceremony honored approximately 32 officers who had been recognized for their accomplishments by receiving a promotion in rank during the 2009 Promotion Year. As part of the ceremony, newly promoted officers had one shoulder board replaced with their new rank by RADM Williams. Each promoted officer also brought an Honored Guest, a family member, co-worker, or friend, to replace their other shoulder board. Officers in attendance were promoted to Lieutenant Commander, Commander, and Captain.

The Atlanta-area PHS Choral Ensemble performed throughout the ceremony and a catered reception followed allowing friends and family an opportunity to congratulate promoted officers personally.

A special thanks was extended to the ACOA Special Projects Committee, CDC/ATSDR, the PHS Choral Ensemble, and the volunteers who graciously offered their assistance in planning and implementing the 2009 Promotion Ceremony. In particular, CDR Spears thanked LT Jamie Mutter and LCDR Michael King, the ACOA Special Projects Committee Chairs, whose weeks of intense planning culminated in a special event for all who attended.


                     RADM Williams welcomed promoted officers 2009 PHS Choral Ensemble
CAPT David Callahan and family CAPT Bruce Tierney and father

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The Field Medical Readiness Badge – what is it, and how can I get it?
Contributed by LCDR Aimee Treffiletti

What is the FMRB?

The Field Medical Readiness Badge (FMRB) recognizes officers who have met criteria beyond the required force readiness standards. It is awarded on the basis of proven knowledge and skill related to force readiness and performance while engaged in Corps deployments.

The FMRB is a gold special skills badge in the design of a chaplain’s cross with the anchor and caduceus overlay. Once awarded the FMRB, an officer may continue to wear the badge indefinitely regardless of whether the badge was earned under the previous or current eligibility criteria.

How do I qualify for the FMRB?

In July 2006, ADM Agwunobi, the Assistant Secretary for Health, issued a Commissioned Corps Instruction detailing the revised eligibility criteria for the FMRB.

To qualify for the FMRB, officers must meet the force readiness standards in addition to the following eligibility criteria:

Service Requirement. Be serving on extended active duty in the Corps.

Physical Readiness Requirement. Must pass the Annual Physical Fitness Test (APFT) Level II as the minimum fitness standard. (NOTE: participating in the President’s Challenge does not qualify for the FMRB.)

Training Requirement. Complete the compulsory modules Web-based training for FMRB. These will include required modules from the ‘core’, ‘clinical’ (if applicable), and ‘optional’ curricula of the Web-based OFRD modules. The website contains the details of the FMRB Web-based training requirements. The modules for the FMRB are located on the new USPHS Learning Management System. Instructions for logging into this website are available at . Once logged in, click on the “Courses” tab to locate the FMRB specific modules.

Deployment Requirement. Participate in one or more Corps deployments consisting of a minimum of 7 days. Deployment days may be accumulated from multiple deployments performed within the last 3 years prior to the date of the officer’s application for the FMRB.

I completed the criteria – now what?

Once the officer has met all the criteria, there is nothing left for them to do. The Office of Force Readiness and Deployment (OFRD) will periodically review and determine those officers who meet the eligibility criteria. A list of officers who meet the requirements will then be forwarded to the Office of Commissioned Corps Operations (OCCO) for processing in accordance with standard award procedures.  

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Atlanta Community Food Bank
Contributed by LT Charlene Majersky (Chairman) and CDR Jacqueline Thomas (Co-Chairman)

On Saturday, August 1, 2009, members of the ACOA Community Service Committee volunteered at the Atlanta Community Food Bank (ACFB) near downtown Atlanta. The ACFB was founded in 1979 and distributes nearly two million pounds of food and other donated grocery items each month to more than 800 organizations in 38 counties in Metro Atlanta and North Georgia. ACFB receives donated items from local grocery stores, manufacturers, distributors and other partners. ACFB volunteers assist in placing the donated items into boxes for ease of distribution. On August 1st, the Community Service Committee members boxed over 14,098 pounds of food and food-related items which equates to 9,399 meals. The Community Service Members performed a variety of functions such as checking expiration dates of food items; sorting the items into the 12 established categories; weighing and labeling boxes; and organizing boxes by category onto correct pallets. Committee members arrived enthusiastic and ready to work, and everyone left the facility with smiles on their faces. Special thanks to all the USPHS officers who participated in the ACFB volunteer activity!

Atlanta Community Food Bank Volunteers Saturday, August 1, 2009

**Standing left to right**
Male in USPHS shirt = LT Rashid Njai
Male in gray shirt = CDR Jeff Bosshart
Male in yellow shirt = CAPT Ralph O'Connor
Male in navy shirt = LCDR Deron Burton
Female in USPHS shirt = CDR Lori Pollack
Female in black shirt = LT Charlene Majersky
Female in USPHS shirt = CDR Jacqueline Thomas
Female in blue shirt = LCDR Fuyuen Yip

**2nd row kneeling**
Female in blue/orange shirt – LCDR Suzanne Beavers
Female in blue shirt = CDR Delois Jackson
Female in pink shirt = LCDR Tegan Boehmer
Female in USPHS shirt = CAPT Julie Magri
Male in blue shirt = CDR John Iskander
Female (child) in black shirt = Eleanor Iskander

**Not pictured***
CAPT Ruth Jiles, CAPT Julie Magri, CAPT Monina Klevens, and Beatriz Mora

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Commissioned Officers Effectiveness Reports
Contributed by CAPT April Shaw , CDR Nicole Flowers, and LT Matthew Weinburke

On August 13th, CAPT April Shaw and LT Matthew Weinburke gave a presentation on the Commissioned Officers’ Effectiveness Report (COERs) at an ACOA-sponsored Lunch and Learn. The presenters discussed the purpose and use of the COER, types of COERs, the ratings, the COER process and roles and responsibilities of the officer, rater, and reviewing official (RO).

The presenters projected these tentative
key dates, based on POM 08-2008 (dates are subject to change pending a 2009 POM on COERs)

  • COER available to officers 1 October 2009

  • Rating period 1 October 2008 through 30 September 2009

  • COER due to Rater by 15 October 2009

  • COER due to Reviewing Official by 29 October 2009

  • COER due to OCCO by 12 November 2009

How would you respond to the following case scenarios?

1] Officer fails to initiate or complete the Annual COER by the published closing date, submits medical special pay (MSP) contract. Liaison office contacts officer to say, no COER in system so they cannot enter into a MSP contract. Officer tries to initiate a COER and it’s after March deadline for submitting an electronic COER.
                o What type of COER would the officer submit?
                o Where would the officer find this information?
2] An officer is nominated by their program for Exceptional Proficiency Promotion
                o There is no reviewing official’s statement (ROS) populated in the officer’s 2009 COER
                o What must be done?
3] An officer transfers to a new assignment (new duty station) on or after 1 July 2009
                o Can the officer complete a Transfer COER to take the place of the Annual COER?
                o Who is the Rater and the RO in this situation?
4] An officer transfers from another program. His new rater directs the officer to submit a COER to document the performance from a previous assignment
                o What type of COER is submitted?
5] In which situation is a COER not used?
                a) Promotion Board
                b) Assimilation Board
                c) Flag Officer Board
                d) Separation Board
                e) Special Assignments
                f) Vacancies
                g) Training

Find the answers to these scenarios, in addition to the other information provided at the lunch and learn, by viewing the slides from the presentation on the ACOA website.
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The Truth about Functional Foods
Contributed by Marisa Moore, MBA, RD, LD, Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC)

Wondering if there is any truth in the claims that a particular yogurt can improve your digestive health or that the açai berry is the world’s wonder berry or is it all just marketing hype? The truth is, for centuries, food has been used for medicinal purposes. For instance, ginger is often used to treat nausea and salmon is used to benefit heart health. There are no silver bullets-yet. Eating a varied and balanced diet and engaging in regular physical activity are still the cornerstones to achieve lifelong health and well-being.

Let’s look at a few popular foods to see how they fare …

Food: Açai Berry and Juice

Claim:        Promotes weight loss, detoxification, enhanced immune function, wrinkle reduction and more
Truth:         Dubbed a superfruit, this Central and South American native, the açai berry does have antioxidant activity as does most fruits and vegetables. Research on its super powers is limited at best and has not yet been evaluated by the FDA. Like most fruit, açai offers some nutrition benefits but have yet to earn the high price tag attached to the juice.

Food: Margarine Spreads: Smart Balance®, Take Control®, Benecol®

Claim:     Helps decrease blood cholesterol levels
Truth:     These spreads are enhanced with plant sterols and stanols. When consumed in significant amounts, plant sterols have shown to help reduce LDL (bad) blood cholesterol levels for people who already have high blood cholesterol. To get the benefit, you must use the product as directed, which may mean a tablespoon or two of spread 2-3 times per day. Plant sterols are also found naturally in small quantities in many fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, cereals, beans and vegetable oils and a variety of fortified foods such as orange juice and yogurt.

Food: Fatty Fish (Salmon, Sardines and others)

Claim:     Promotes heart health
Truth:     Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of essential polyunsaturated fatty acid. These fatty acids have been shown to provide cardiovascular benefits such as lower triglycerides, lower blood pressure and decrease the risk of death by heart attack and stroke for people with heart disease. Other sources of omega 3s include a variety of fatty fish, fish oil supplements and in a different form in walnuts, flaxseed and canola oil.

Food: Yogurt

Claim:     Promotes regularity and digestive health, prevents constipation, and enhances immune function
Truth:     Yogurt products contain a blend of active cultures known as probiotics. Probiotics are live bacteria naturally present (or added to foods) that provide strain-specific health benefits such as gastrointestinal health, better lactose tolerance, and possible enhanced immune function. Most yogurt products contain these active cultures so you may not have to pay a premium price to get the same benefits you’d get from a store brand yogurt. You can always check with the yogurt manufacturer to see what kind of science they have to back up any health claims.

This covers less than the tip of the iceberg when it comes to functional foods. It’s exciting to know that we can get so much help from Mother Nature to stay healthy. The benefits of a diet with a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean protein far outweigh a focus on any one food. Keep your eyes open and remember that if a claim sounds too good to be true…it probably is.

Marisa Moore, MBA,RD, LD is an Atlanta-based registered and licensed dietitian. As a CSC contractor at CDC, she works as the Lifestyle Nutrition Program Coordinator in the OHS/Lifestyle Occupational Health Program where she develops and markets nutrition education programs, seminars and supermarket tours for CDC/ATSDR employees in the Atlanta-area. 

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President's Column

D. Ross Spears, CDR, USPHS

ACOA has reached another milestone this year. Members who read the newsletter regularly may recall that ACOA has had to cancel two activities that have been associated with the Branch for many years. The quarterly APFT and the Roadside cleanups were suspended after concerns were raised over liability should an accident occur. The issue of liability focused on the fact that Branch leadership could have been subject to litigation (right or wrong) should someone have gotten hurt. ACOA has always worked to ensure its events were safe for all concerned, but in this day and age of litigation, lawsuits are a fact of life.

In order to protect the Branch, ACOA has taken the following steps. First, ACOA is now incorporated as a non-profit corporation in the State of Georgia. This provides general protection for our events. Second, ACOA has obtained low-cost general liability insurance from The Hartford Group. This provides the Branch coverage against lawsuits, frivolous or otherwise, and covers legal fees that could easily run into thousands of dollars. The insurance covers volunteers as well as the EC and the Branch, and serves as our “just in case” lifeline. Finally, the EC has cancelled future Roadside Cleanups. The events involve more risk than the Branch needs to assume. With the many other activities planned by the Community Service Committee, ACOA will still be able to provide members opportunities to serve in other ways. ACOA has begun the process to resume APFTs under the sponsorship of the CDC Commissioned Corps Personnel Office. However, the details have not been finalized so it is not yet clear whether we will be able to resume these before year’s end. ACOA asks your patience as we address this issue.

In conclusion, ACOA has made a groundbreaking effort to support the Branch, protect its officers, and still serve the membership and the community. The combination of incorporation, insurance and renewed vigilance on safety has been a major accomplishment of the Branch this year. The lessons learned this year will pave the way for other COA Branches as they work through these complicated issues.


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CDR Vasavi T. Thomas.

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The Signal, Volume 18, Issue 6666