Message from the Director

NOAA Corps Community -

Last Friday, Dr. Neil A. Jacobs announced the nominations for the next three senior leadership positions in the NOAA Corps. I am thrilled and humbled to be afforded the opportunity to serve you as the Deputy Director for Operations, OMAO and Deputy Director NOAA Corps to build upon the great work of RADM Michael J. Silah, RDML Nancy L. Hann and RDML Shepherd M. Smith. I would also like to congratulate RADM (sel) Nancy L. Hann and RDML (sel) Richard T. Brennan on their promotion selections. The Agency has some incredible challenges ahead of us and working together across the organization to solve them will be the best part. The timing of the leadership changes are still evolving and I wanted to communicate for your situational awareness that I will continue to serve as the Director, CPC until transition dates are approved.

Now onto this week's Cyberflash! As you may have noticed in recent Cyberflash messages that there is a new section on Leaders in the NOAA Corps. I find inspiration in the important work of our fellow NOAA Corps officers and have included this section to shine a light on a small sample of the great accomplishments occurring out there.So far, these accomplishments have included exceptional operational achievements, building community during a pandemic, and successful completion of assignments.

This week I am pleased to highlight a leader that has chosen to be vulnerable, authentic, and eager to help pave the path to a healthy, inclusive and resilient NOAA Corps. In coordination with the Office of Health Services, LT James R. Europe has graciously offered to share a powerful story with us regarding mental health. Feeling safe enough to broadly share a personal story about mental health is a sign of progress in our Corps, but we still have much more to do here. I admire LT James R. Europe's courage for opening up and sharing a personal story with the hope of encouraging others to minimize suffering in silence. Thanks to the leadership of RADM Michael J. Silah and CAPT Christian Rathke, we have resources in OMAO that have never before been available in the NOAA Corps. Moving forward, RADM (sel) Nancy L. Hann and I remain committed to supporting this critical component of our organization. I encourage you to read the story below, consider the information and resources from the Office of Health Services, and be ready to continue the conversation when a member of our community is in need.

Keep up the great work, be safe, and I look forward to connecting with you.

Warm Regards,

Directors signature
CAPT Chad Cary, NOAA
Director, Commissioned Personnel Center

On the Horizon

16 Nov 2020 BOTC Graduation
02 Dec 2020 Officer Assignment Board, O-4/O-5 Shore Assignments
Dec 2020 Aviation Advisory Board, Initial Flight Training

Approved Resignations, Separations and Retirements

CAPT Devin Brakob 01 Dec 2020
LTJG Sara Wood 01 Dec 2020
LCDR Ryan Wartick 01 Jan 2021
CDR Sean Cimilluca 01 Mar 2021
LTJG Tyler Fifield 22 Mar 2021
RADM Michael J. Silah 01 Apr 2021

Leaders in the NOAA Corps - LT James R. Europe, IV

On 13 October 2020, I woke up feeling off. There was a heaviness to the air around me and I felt its weight with every breath. I felt jittery, as if I'd had too many cups of coffee that morning. The feeling wasn't completely new. It had been building for weeks but that morning was a marked difference. I dropped my two kids off at daycare and started for home to begin the workday. The feeling was affecting me enough that I pulled over to write an email to CDR KJ Green, Director of Behavioral Health and Wellness, asking for help.

The final straw, that I could easily recognize, was the suicide of my step-brother 10 days earlier, but the feeling didn't start there. It has grown slowly over the last few months with each added stressor that has come along in the time of COVID-19. The isolation, the home office with 2 young kids and the loss of friends and family to name a few. Occasionally it would abate, like when daycare was back open or when we were able to visit family. Other things made it grow even quicker.

Just writing down what I was feeling in the email to CDR Green made me feel a little better, but it was a temporary relief. When I arrived at home that day to start working, I felt like I had caffeine running through my veins. With my heart racing I walked from room to room, inside and outside, feeling like there was something I needed to find that just wasn't there. I could feel the air thickening like I was breathing heavy fog and my mind was scattered.

My wife asked me to read something she was working on. I stood behind her, reading over her shoulder. I couldn't concentrate on the page and my heart was beating out of my chest. All at once I felt like I was drowning and my legs could no longer hold me up. I sat back onto the wood floor and uncontrolled tears streamed down my face. My wife turned to see me on the ground, head between my knees. She sat next to me and quietly talked to me to help me regain my focus and slow my heart. I remember all I could think to say in a shaky voice was "so this is what a panic attack feels like?"

After my step-brother's death I travelled to NY to be with family. There was crying, laughter, anger and smiles but most of all confusion and guilt. Everyone wondered why no one knew what he was going through or why he didn't ask for help. We wondered if there were signs we should have noticed and if we could have prevented him from taking his own life. Now all we can do is wish that we would have asked if he was ok and wish that he had asked for help. I took on the role of worrying about everyone else and thought I was ok. I've always been a positive and calm person and I didn't recognize that I was struggling. Maybe I thought it would go away if I just didn't acknowledge it. Once I was back home there was no escaping.

Mental health has been a major topic in recent years and even more so in recent months. I think we've reached a point where the majority of people recognize its importance but I still don't think we feel like we can seek help or let it interfere with work or home without it having an effect on our careers and relationships. I was hesitant to send the email to CDR Green. That morning was not the first time I started an email to him but it was the first time I hit send. I never thought I needed any help or that my problems were big enough to take up resources and I should just tough it out. I'm willing to bet there are a number of people out there who are thinking something similar right now. Looking back I don't really know why I was so hesitant but I am glad that I finally reached out. The day I emailed CDR Green he responded to check on me and schedule a call. He talked me through the process and any concerns I had and directed me towards the resources I needed to take the next step. Our conversation and the resources I sought are all completely confidential. A few days later he followed up to see how I was doing and if I needed anything. By then I was feeling more myself but the call reminded me to continue to check in with myself and my current health and to take the next steps to call and seek treatment.

When I returned from NY I felt a desire to share the tragedy with those around me because I wanted to highlight that people don't always ask for help and it is important for us to take care of each other. Experiencing my first panic attack and talking myself into reaching out for help made me realize that it is equally as important that we take care of ourselves.

A number of people have helped create an environment where I feel comfortable asking for help and sharing this story and I would like to thank CAPT Chad Cary, CAPT Christian Rathke, CDR KJ Green, LT Helen MacGregor and LT Hollis Europe. My hope in sharing all of this in a public forum is that it will help to normalize mental health like any other specialty; encourage others to reach out if they are struggling and hesitant to talk to someone and encourage family, friends, peers and supervisors who reads this to look at those around you and ask them how they are doing. Take care of yourselves and each other. You may not recognize how much you are struggling until you talk about it. Reach out early and don't let excuses get in the way.

Did you know?

At least 20% of NOAA Corps officers receive behavioral health (mental health and/or substance use) services in a given year. This is comparable to the general U.S. adult population, which receives behavioral health services at a rate ranging between 20% to 30%, depending on the year.

More than 75% of the NOAA Corps officers who have shared their behavioral health status with Medical Affairs have remained fully fit for duty. Of the remaining 25%, the majority have had only minimal interruptions in their readiness status. It is exceedingly rare that an officer never returns to full fitness for duty due to a behavioral health condition. Since 2016, this has only happened twice. And in both instances, the officer agreed with the determination.

Behavioral Health and Wellness

The two-pronged mission of Behavioral Health & Wellness is to 1) ensure that everyone who experiences signs and symptoms of mental health and/or substance use issues has ready access to high-quality services in a supportive culture that encourages treatment, and 2) promote the wellness of the workforce as a whole by identifying opportunities to improve well-being and responding with best-fit interventions. To meet this two-pronged mission, Behavioral Health & Wellness performs several functions including, but not limited to: service coordination, consultation, education and training, writing and reviewing policies, and program development.

The sole purpose of Behavioral Health & Wellness is to provide services that safeguard and improve your behavioral health and wellness. Behavioral Health & Wellness does not determine your fitness for duty. Your fitness for duty is determined and monitored by Medical Affairs.

How Behavioral Health & Wellness communicates with Medical Affairs

If you inform Behavioral Health & Wellness that you do not believe you are able to perform your job in an operational environment due to a behavioral health and/or medical condition, then for your safety and the safety of others, we will encourage you to notify Medical Affairs so that you can be placed on a modified duty status that corresponds with your current ability to perform in an operational environment. We will also ask your permission for us to follow up with Medical Affairs so that we can coordinate our support to better serve you.

More generally speaking in regards to confidentiality, the Behavioral Health & Wellness officers at NOAA are licensed clinicians whose practices are governed by the laws of their licensure and their professional codes of ethics. All communications between an individual and Behavioral Health & Wellness are confidential unless there exists a clear and present threat to life of that individual and/or others; a suspicion of threat to life, or of abuse or neglect, of a child or vulnerable adult (i.e., an adult unable to independently care for him/herself); or if the individual has explicitly granted permission to breach confidentiality. It is important to note that even in the aforementioned circumstances, every effort is made to maintain the greatest degree of confidentiality possible by disclosing the minimum amount of information necessary to safeguard the lives and safety of those concerned, and to do so with the expressed consent of the individual.

Since Behavioral Health & Wellness was established in early 2018, it has provided direct services to over 20% of the officers in the NOAA Corps, and there has never been an occasion to breach confidentiality without the individual's expressed consent. There is no evidence to support concerns of confidentiality deterring you from contacting Behavioral Health & Wellness. You are welcomed and encouraged to reach out to me anytime, day or night, weekday or weekend. My contact information can be found at the end of this article.

Medical Affairs and Readiness

Medical Affairs' primary role is individual NOAA Corps officer readiness and advocacy for officer health. We pride ourselves on getting you the help you need, as early as possible, so that you can be fit for duty-whether than be now, or six months from now. For most of you that means, helping you identify resources, reviewing the medical records your share with us, and educating you on follow-up in the future. For the vast majority, this happens without any change to your duty status.

It is really important for officers to know that for the majority of you who reach out to Medical Affairs in a time of acute mental health issues, you WILL NOT be placed in a limited, or unfit status. In the rare cases when you are placed in a modified duty status, that is because you have agreed that is the best temporary measure for your case. If you feel unsafe, if you are part of an intensive therapy program, or are on medication that interferes with judgment then you, as an officer, understand that it is in your best interest to take some time to address your health, rather than put yourself or others at risk.

I want all of you to know that just because you engage with psychotherapy, or have a prescription for a mental health medication, does not mean you are automatically unfit for duty. Please, reach out to us to discuss any concerns you have. Please grant us the opportunity to offer you reassurance, share some of the burden of your planning, and to help set you up for success. Please allow us to assist you early on with your case, so we can help you work towards a long successful career. We want you, and those you work with, to stay safe. This is a tough career path you've chosen, bumps along it are expected, and we are here to help.

How Medical Affairs communicates with Behavioral Health & Wellness

We will refer you for services with CDR KJ Green if you agree that his services could help you, but we do not share your information with him, unless you are interested in us doing so.

If you would like to reach out to me for any questions about your readiness, mental health services, or ideas for improvement, please contact me at the phone number below. I am proud to be a resource for you all.
- LT Helen MacGregor, NP-C.


Behavioral Health & Wellness

Kenneth J. "KJ" Green, LCSW, BCD
Commander, U.S. Public Health Service
Director, Behavioral Health & Wellness
office phone: 301-713-7639
personal cell: 571-241-0349 (call or text)
NOAA Corps Medical Affairs

Sharon Downey, MSA, RN
Lieutenant Commander, U.S. Public Health Service
Chief, Medical Affairs

Helen MacGregor, MSN, MPH, NP-C
Lieutenant, U.S. Public Health Service
Deputy Chief, Medical Affairs

Clinical duty phone: 202-6567-8416 (call or text)

Assignment Coordinator Hand-off

It is with a deep sense of appreciation that CPC bids farewell to CDR Stephen Kuzirian. CDR Kuzirian took over the role of Assignment Coordinator following a 4 year period of rapid turnover in the billet. Within 10 months of reporting, he was able to bring the average lead time for assigning officers to their next billets from 8 months to 14 months, and maintained this 14 month average for the remainder of his tenure. This has had a substantial positive impact on officers' ability to plan their personal lives around PCSs, and has improved the NOAA Corps' reliability to the units we serve. Bravo Zulu, CDR Kuzirian, and best of luck on your tour as CO, Henry B. Bigelow!

We also want to extend a warm welcome to the new Assignment Coordinator, LCDR Joseph Carrier. LCDR Carrier comes to CPC from the Oscar Elton Sette where he served as XO. LCDR Carrier has hit the ground running, and stands ready to assist NOAA Corps Officers and our customers as he works to keep NOAA supplied with the best possible officers in all of our critical and ever-rotating billets. Welcome, LCDR Carrier!

LCDR Carrier can be reached at or at 301-713-7694

BOTC 136 Graduation

BOTC 136 has reached graduation! The class will be graduating on November 16th at 0945. The ceremonies can be viewed via livestream at Military Honors Ceremony (0830 EST) and BOTC 136 / OCS 1-21 Graduation (0945 EST) . Following graduation the class will be headed to the United States Maritime Resource Center in Middletown, RI for Bridge Resource Management and ECDIS before headed to their ships on December 4th.

OCS Class 1-21 & BOTC 136 Graduation from U.S. Coast Guard Academy on Vimeo.