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Strong Bonds strengthen military families

Sgt. 1st Class Matt Scotten, Indiana National Guard, Joint Force Headquarters

The Army hosted a Strong Bonds Retreat for married military couples at the Crown Plaza Hotel, Dec. 7-9. The focus of the event was “8 Habits of a Successful Marriage,” which taught military couples how to strengthen their marriages by communicating more effectively with each other. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Matt Scotten)

INDIANAPOLIS - December 11, 2012 “My grandmother once asked me how often I changed the oil in my car, and I told her I did it once every 3,000 miles,” said Capt. Adin Rodgers, deputy state chaplain. “Then, she asked me how often I checked the oil in my marriage.”

With a national divorce rate of roughly 55 percent, it is more important than ever for couples to periodically “check the oil” in their marriages. In the military, where the divorce rate is even higher, largely due to the stresses that deployments and other factors of military lifestyle place on relationships, looking at ways to strengthen those bonds can be even more crucial.

The Army recognized that the soldier with a strong family is typically a stronger soldier; better able to focus on the mission at hand rather than worrying about what is going on at home. In an effort order to help keep military families strong, the Army developed a program called Strong Bonds. The Indiana National Guard hosted one of these programs in December at an Indianapolis hotel.

According to the mission statement listed on the Strong Bonds website, Strong Bonds is a unit-based, chaplain-led program which assists commanders in building individual resiliency by strengthening the Army Family. The core mission of the program is to increase individual soldier and family member readiness through relationship education and skills training.

Strong Bonds is conducted in an offsite retreat format in order to maximize the training effect. The atmosphere provides a fun, safe, and secure environment in which to address the impact of relocations, deployments, and military lifestyle stressors. Indiana’s December program focused on “The 8 Habits of a Successful Marriage.”

“It’s designed to teach couples skills that will help them to better communicate with and understand their spouse,” said Capt. Cliff Pappe, 81st Troop Command support chaplain and Strong Bonds instructor.

Although the program is chaplain-led, the program is not religious-based. Instead, chaplains tap into their backgrounds in conflict resolution and counseling.

"Because this program is hosted by chaplains, a lot of people think it is religious in nature,” said Rodgers, who is also a Strong Bonds instructor. “These are very religiously neutral. We do talk about a spiritual aspect of the overall health of the marriage in some of the curriculum, but it is really focused on just making sure that other piece to a person’s life and personality are being addressed in their marriage.”

Indiana Army National Guard 1st Lt. Tyler Mitchell, with the 38th Combat Aviation Brigade, attended the Strong Bonds Program with his wife of four years, Tammi. They said they already had a strong marriage before coming to Strong Bonds, but they wanted to learn ways to continue to make their marriage even stronger.

“I knew the Army cared about its soldiers, but until you come to an event like this, you don’t really know the lengths the Army goes through to help their soldiers,” said Tammi. “I would definitely recommend this to any military family, whether they think they need help in their marriage or not. There is always room for building a better marriage.”

The Strong Bonds has been successful enough in helping married military families, that they began offering a program for single soldiers, as well. For more information on Strong Bonds, or to search for an event near you, go to StrongBonds.org

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