Story by Pfc. Crystal D. Eldridge
13th SC(E) Public Affairs
Soldiers are often faced with multiple deployments, the stress of Army transformation and the Global War on Terrorism in addition to the normal strains of military life. Yet Soldiers are not alone in dealing with these issues. Their families and friends are also affected.
The 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) Chaplain's Office has implemented a program to help Soldiers and their families cope with daily life in the Army - whether in garrison or separated due to deployment. Using the Army's Strong Bonds resources, the 13th SC(E) provides "spiritual battleproofing" retreats for its married couples.
Strong Bonds is an Army-wide chaplain-led program formerly known as Building Strong and Ready Families. It is a commander's program to improve Soldier and unit readiness. The purpose of the program is to assist commanders in providing Soldiers with opportunities to build and maintain strong families.
Capt. Tom Medley, a chaplain of the 13th SC(E), promotes spiritual battleproofing as a way to prepare families, as well as Soldiers, for separation and multiple rotations.
"It's our way to battleproof the homefront," Medley said.
Ultimately, he added, problems in Soldiers' homes create problems for the Army.
Medley continued, "If there are family problems, the Soldiers' thoughts are not going to be on the mission."
To help prevent problems, married Soldiers of the 13th SC(E) are invited to marriage retreats on a monthly basis. Class sizes are limited, providing couples with one-on-one time with chaplains and assistants in order to receive counseling on issues the couples may be facing.
These two-day retreats are held in Salado, Texas, and are at no cost to Soldiers and their spouses. Scavenger hunts and free time allow couples to enjoy the area and talk without distractions.
During group sessions, speaker-listener skills are discussed as well as conflict and resolution techniques, managing finances and how to work together as military families.
Another large aspect of the retreats is chaplains informing couples of area attractions and activities. Many families are unaware of the inexpensive, family-friendly entertainment in the area. Telling these families about state parks, festivals and opportunities for military discounts provides them with one resource for chances to spend quality time together as a family, Medley said.
"We believe if [Soldiers] have a foundation and that foundation is shared within the families, they have stronger families," Medley concluded.