Conference empowers, educates, encourages Ironhorse spouses
June 27, 2013
FORT HOOD, Texas - Chaplains of the 1st "Ironhorse" Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division hosted the first Ironhorse Spouse's Conference June 18 at Fort Hood, Texas.
Chaplains were able to connect with spouses of soldiers, building from other family and spouse oriented programs previously sponsored by the brigade, said Killeen, Texas native, Capt. Marshall Coen, Ironhorse chaplain.
"I think a lot of times our spouses feel (disconnected)," Coen said. "They feel like they have to go to a hail and farewell or have to go to a company event to support their significant other. Well, this is solely for (spouses)."
The goal is to turn the conference into a monthly gathering for any Ironhorse spouse that would like to attend, Coen expressed.
"An extension of the soldier is family," Coen said. "A good Army family is a family that understands how the Army works."
Clear objectives were created to ensure the true focus of the conference was not lost, Coen said.
"As we look at our programming, or look at our focus, we want to make sure that what we do, we do for empowering, educating and encouraging the spouses to continue to do well in the military," Coen explained.
Coen believes spouses possess a wealth of knowledge. They have experience, a passion to care for their families and their soldier, and face hardships service members don't always see.
The conference is structured on the adult learning model in which a facilitator raises a topic allowing spouses to discuss.
Alamogordo, N.M. native, Stephanie Mello, a mobilization and deployment specialist for Army Community Service, spoke at the conference to bring together, educate, and continue to encourage spouses in the Army lifestyle.
Mello was invited to speak because of her current position for ACS and because she authored a book reflecting her more than 20 years as a military spouse. She is also a Navy Vietnam War veteran and an Army veteran.
The focus of Mello's discussion was resilience and spouses reaching out to one another for support.
"A lot of us wait for people to reach in and you can't," Mello explained. "If you want to really thrive in this experience you have to be willing to reach out, but we're afraid to do that. We're really afraid to open up our security net."
Mello explained the conference is an opportunity for new and seasoned spouses to share experiences.
"One (type) reminds us what we were like when we were young, when we were new," Mello said. "The other lets us know that eventually we get to a point where we do feel like we belong."
Mello added that programs of this nature are only as successful as the people who participate.
"Maybe you will hear the same thing that you heard before, but maybe, just one time, you will hear something new," Mello said. "That will change how you deal with a situation, how you deal with a person, or how you feel about yourself and the strengths that you have."
The chaplains want families and especially spouses to recognize they do have a voice and it's important, Coen explained.
"Whether the soldier is in the Army for three years or 30 years, it's your (family) you go back to at the end of that three years or 30 years," said Col. Steve Gilland, Ironhorse Commander. "In order to be successful ... you have to have that support network, and that support network is right here. It's your family."
If one spouse leaves more encouraged than they came, then the conference was worth it, Coen said.
Future conferences are set for July 24 and Aug. 28.