'Manchu' soldiers strengthen marriage bonds
October 24, 2013
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. - Soldiers assigned to 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment "Manchu" of 4-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 7th Infantry Division - and their spouses - took part in a seminar titled "Oxygen for Your Relationships" held at Evergreen Chapel here, Oct. 18.
Eighteen couples attended an all-day session designed to strengthen their relationships by learning and discussing "foundational principles vital to the life of a marriage - the way oxygen is vital to all life," as described by the Stronger Families organization which offers the curriculum.
"The thing I like about this program is that it places an emphasis on starting a conversation," said Maj. Will Alley, 4-9 Inf. chaplain. It focuses on couples getting together, discussing issues and developing an action plan they can utilize in the days, weeks and months down the road, he continued.
The 4-2 SBCT, 7th Inf. Div. returned this summer from a nine-month deployment to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
According to Alley, deployments create strain when military couples try to reintegrate as a family unit upon the soldier's return. The command team has made it a priority to provide this type of event to help soldiers and their families as much as possible.
"We tend to have a very high turnout for these, the soldiers are interested," said Staff Sgt. Nathan Scott, 4-9 Inf. chaplain's assistant with 15 years of service.
Scott's many years of involvement with Strong Bonds, a chaplain-led program for commanders which builds relationship resiliency, have led him to form some thoughts about his experiences.
"There's no such thing as a perfect marriage," said Scott.
He encourages couples to ask themselves the question: "What can we work on together as a team?"
According to program literature, the "Oxygen seminar" teaches couples to improve their communication, better understand each other's needs, resolve conflict, rekindle romance, and find renewed hope. Unlike Strong Bonds, which takes place in an offsite format over the course of two or three days, the training is condensed into a single session held on post.
"The main topic that we want our soldiers to work on is expectation management," Alley said. It's important that we help them understand that men and women think and respond differently, he explained.
Pfc. Garrick Garcia, an infantryman with Company C, 4-9 Inf., signed up for Oxygen with his wife Sarah because of the positive impression from attending a Strong Bonds retreat earlier in the year.
They learned new things about each other then, and also during Oxygen. The differences in the curriculum complemented each other while the similarities reinforced the training and provided them with the tools to succeed.
"Our marriage grows stronger," said Sarah, summing up their experience.