Building Army Family resiliency is part of a strategic approach to cope with the high operational demand placed on today’s Army. One way of doing this is through the Strong Bonds program.
Strong Bonds is a unit-based, chaplain-led program that assists commanders in building individual resiliency by strengthening the Army Family. The core mission of the Strong Bonds program is to increase individual Soldier and Family Member readiness through relationship education and skills training.
To maximize the training effect, Strong Bonds is conducted in an offsite retreat format. The retreat or “get away” provides a fun, safe and secure environment in which to address the impact of relocations, deployments and military lifestyle stressors.
“One of the strings that flows in just about all the suicides is the loss of relationship,” said Chaplain (Maj.) Cody Vest, Family Life Center chaplain. “By using Strong Bonds events, we try to build strong relationships for all Soldiers.”
Healthy relationships contribute to the maintenance of a healthy Army and a secure future force. With increasing demands placed on Soldiers and Families, to include both frequent deployments and duty relocations, intimate relationships are fully tested.
Research shows that training in communication skills, intimacy, and conflict management increases marital satisfaction, reduces divorces and reduces rates of family violence.
Unit chaplains teach from a wide variety of curricula, such as Active Military Life and Resiliency Skills, the Five Love Languages, and Seven Habits of Highly Effective Families for Army Families.
“‘How not to marry a jerk’ is one of the curricula we teach single Soldiers,” Vest commented. “It teaches them how to manage the complexity of choosing a life partner and to ask themselves if they are the type of person that’s going to be a good spouse and what changes they need to make in themselves to accomplish that goal.”
Vest said that when they teach Families, they focus on developing communication skills, dealing with the stress of deployments and building friendships.
“A lot of children have a hard time expressing their needs to their parents,” Vest said. “Most of the time, they ‘act up’ to get attention. In Strong Bonds, we build communication skills by using a play scenario in which Mom and Dad learn how to communicate with their kids and vice versa.”
Recognizing the importance of family support, the Army introduced the program Building Strong and Ready Families in 1997. Initially, 90 active-duty couples participated in four events. Over the past year, more than 160,000 Soldiers and Family Members have participated in more than 2,600 Strong Bonds events.
The program’s success has led to increased funding, expansion Armywide, and more training options.
One chaplain doing his part to build strong and resilient Army Families at Fort Drum is Chaplain (Capt.) Lee R. Greenfield, 2nd Brigade Combat Team chaplain.
“We are having a Strong Bonds event in August for 2nd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, a Single Soldier Strong Bonds event for the 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, ‘Polar Bears,’ in September and two more couples events in September with the 1st Squadron, 89th Cavalry Regiment,” Greenfield said.
“Marriage is hard, and military marriage can be exceptionally hard because of the different stresses that are put on the military Family,” Vest said. “The Chaplain’s Corps is here to help Families not only survive in the military, but to thrive in the military. We will supply any type of support that we can to help our Soldiers.”
For additional information or to find an event near you, visit www.strongbonds.org