13th SC(E) Marriage Enrichment Retreat: Spiritual Battle Proofing Families

Story by: Spc. Fabian Ortega
Photo by Cpt. Leanne Masserini
13th SC(E) Public Affairs Office

FORT HOOD, TEXAS — The Chaplain’s Office of the 13th Sustainment (Expeditionary) is opening the lines of communication and helping preserve marriages.

Since returning from deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in August 2007, the 13th SC(E) Chaplain’s Office has hosted marriage retreats about once a week enabling couples to connect on a personal level.

“The retreat helps couples communicate and teaches how to forgive,” said Lt. Col. Lyndell Stike, 13th SC(E) Command Chaplain. “We have slots available for 20 to 25 couples who want to attend a marriage retreat,” said Stike.

Fifty-eight percent of the Army’s Soldiers are married; one-third of first time Soldiers do not complete their enlistment as a result of difficulties in relationships, said Stike.

Stike said the 13th SC(E) has retreats planned throughout the year and said there is approximately one marriage retreat per week. The retreats are held at different resorts in Waco, Austin, Round Rock and Belton.

The agenda of the retreat is based on the Prevention and Relationship Enhancement Program (PREP) and consists of three phases: Awareness, skill building and integration.

The PREP approach is based on 20 years of research in the field of marital health and success, with much of the specific research conducted at the University of Denver in the past 15 years.

Stike said the program teaches couples how to communicate and manage conflicts.

The enrichment retreat is a two day outing open to military couples.

“We have 6 sessions a day and about an hour each session,” said Stike.

The sessions, usually held in conference rooms, focus on different subjects such as marital stress, communication skills, ground rules for protecting your relationship and working through forgiveness.

The rest of the time is spent outside the conference area where couples are issued homework, Stike said.

“The homework is an opportunity to practice their communication skills,” said Stike. “The intent is to mix a little relaxation as well as awareness. It’s a blend of classroom, homework and relaxation,” he said.

Stike said for those who are worried about the retreat being too touchy feely, the program is not designed that way.

“Most men think of a marriage retreat and think we’re going to sit in a circle and sing Kumbaya or start hugging one another, but that’s not the case.”

“The retreats are simple and they’re educational,” Stike said. “They are designed to be low stress, low drag and this is an opportunity to gain some skills and maybe couples may identify some areas they need some extra work in.”

With deployments becoming the norm, Stike said the chaplaincy has been hard at work dealing with family and marriage issues.

“The chaplaincy has dealt with issue of couples and families for a number of years, but because of the deployments, it’s only intensified the focus upon our need to help couples,” said Stike. “Many times before Soldiers get to deployments there are issues in a marriage, the deployments will reveal preexisting problems. Once you’re deployed it’s awful hard to deal with those issues. So therefore our focus is to help families, help couples,” he said.

The past retreats have proven to be successful and will continue throughout the year.

“We’ve got more funding to do the retreats, and I expect the retreats to continue,” said Stike. “We’re sitting at 95-100 percent attendance on every one  that we’ve done and as long as that happens that means we’re addressing something,” said Stike.

Attendance earns a two-day pass but couples must RSVP in advance.

For more information on marriage enrichment training or the enrichment retreat, contact chaplain assistant, Staff Sgt. David Jenkins at 254-288-0267.

 

Spc. Rice and his wife moments before his deployment
Spc. Rice and his wife moments before his deployment