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U.S. Department of Agriculture Holds First Annual Commissioned Corps Promotion Ceremony
Submitted by CDR Lou Ann Rector, USPHS
Family, friends, and colleagues gathered on the Whitten Patio at U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) headquarters in Washington, D.C., on 1 July to honor several officers of the Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service (Corps) detailed to USDA as they were promoted in rank. The ceremony was the first of its kind, starting a new tradition at USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).

CDR Lou Ann Rector was the mistress of ceremonies, introducing the Public Health Service’s chorale ensemble and Surgeon General’s Honor Cadre. The Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Office of Data Integration and Food Protection, Rev. Perfecto Santiago, gave the invocation, and Administrator Al Almanza welcomed guests and honorees. Speaking of the officers, Mr. Almanza said, “In the field, they will do just about anything.” He re-emphasized their importance, saying, “The flexibility it gives FSIS and USDA to have these folks is very beneficial.”

Assistant Administrator CAPT David Goldman from the Office of Public Health Science (OPHS) gave the opening remarks. He credited the ceremony to CDR Rector. “From the very first day she got here, she said ‘we’re going to have a promotion ceremony because we deserve to have one,’ and she has made it her mission.” The first officer arrived at FSIS in 1998 and 52 officers have served since that time. There are now 24 officers assigned throughout FSIS. “I think FSIS is a great place for officers to work, to distinguish themselves, and advance their careers,” said CAPT Goldman.

The keynote speaker was Acting Deputy Surgeon General RADM Robert Williams. He challenged the officers to be visible, to be leaders, and to remember to have fun. “Sometimes the courage to face adversity also requires the courage to smell the roses,” said RADM Williams. “We are great because others have made us that way. Remember to thank those who have helped you achieve.”

Although nine officers within FSIS were promoted, only four were able to attend the ceremony. Nisha Antoine (OPHS) was promoted to Lieutenant; Michelle Everett (Office of Public Affairs and Consumer Education (OPACE)) was promoted to Commander; Michael Mero (Office of Field Operations (OFO)) was promoted to Lieutenant Commander; and Catherine Rockwell (Office of Policy and Program Development) was promoted to Commander. All officers were presented with new shoulder boards, placed on them by family members and RADM Williams. Those officers not able to attend the ceremony and their new ranks are as follows: LCDR Debra Collier (OPHS); LCDR Kevin Greene (OFO); CDR Candace Hander (Office of Outreach, Employee Education and Training); LCDR William Lanier (OFO); and LCDR Israel Otero (OPACE).
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