Soldiers use Strong Bonds to strengthen marriage
March 11, 2014
FORT BRAGG, N.C. (USASOC News Service, March 10, 2014)-- Marriage takes patience, time, and effort and these attributes don't always receive appropriate attention when the mission comes first.
"It is important that we try not to allow outside-world influences to effect what we do in our marriage," said Chaplain (Lt. Col) Keith Croom, chaplain for United States Army Special Forces Command (Airborne). "There is no limit to how close [we] can get in our marriage."
Through Strong Bonds, a chaplain-led program providing seminars, conferences and weekend adventures, USASFC (A) has been able to provide complimentary opportunities for marriage enrichment and quality family-time to its Soldiers and Families.
"Families matter! There is more to fighting a war than [combat operations]--the foundation of a strong Army is a strong Family," said Chaplain (Maj.) Brad Lewis, deputy chaplain for USASFC (A).
During the most recent USASFC (A) marriage enrichment conference Feb. 28-March 2, families traveled to Ballantyne, N.C., for a weekend focused on conflict-resolution, Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), and forgiveness. Lodging, family time and child care were provided to Soldiers and their Families at no cost to them.
More than 20 couples, many of whom were accompanied by their young children, arrived at Ballantyne Hotel Lodge Friday evening and were greeted by the warm welcome of a weekend to relax and enjoy quality family time.
Friday night's activities kicked off with dinner and an opening discussion about conflict-resolution led by Croom. The couples were presented with the opportunity to engage in intimate discussion about compromise, understanding each other's needs and taking care of one another.
"The intent was to offer Special Forces couples some tools to help strengthen their marriages in spite of over a decade of deployments," said Lewis.
Saturday morning, the group discussion was focused on MBTI) led by Lewis. MBTI is a personality inventory designed to identify psychological types that can be applied as useful tools to people's lives and individual preferences based off a category of types.
Based off of answers provided by each person before the conference, Chaplain Lewis was able to present four scenarios and divide the couples into individual groups based off their type--most couples didn't share the same "type" group.
The exercise offered perspective on thought processes and encouraged a better understanding between couples, not only indentifying with themselves and their own thought processes, but how to better communicate with their partner given a different preferred process at times, said Lewis.
"The Myer-Briggs tool was a definite plus. We gained further insight into each other's character," said Karen Sandness, wife of Sgt. 1st Class Bruce Sandness from 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne).
"What we offered at the retreat only scratched the surface of the assistance the MBTI can offer to individuals, couples, and families," said Lewis.
Both Lewis and Croom are certified to facilitate the MBTI.
Saturday afternoon was blocked off for family time. Many of the couples took their children to the hotel's pool or went out-and-about in Ballantyne's shopping district. Child care was provided that evening if couples wanted to plan an evening meal or "date night".
Sunday morning addressed the topic of forgiveness. Croom led a discussion addressing forgiveness as the "ultimate test of strength" in a relationship. He also shared his perspective on how to receive forgiveness, experience forgiveness, and share forgiveness with our spouse.
"We're all at different points in our marriages. The reality is, we all have to put this into practice," said Croom.
"Families have experienced significant loss during the last 13 years of persistent conflict which has resulted in the erosion of skills that kept marriages alive before the war, said Lewis. "Time preparing and executing this event (and others like it) and the money it took to make it happen offered those same Families some measure of assistance in staying, and perhaps reversing, that erosion."
Preservation of the Force and Family is a priority across Special Operations Forces leadership. Opportunities for marriage enrichment and quality family-time are more readily available through the Strong-Bonds program.
"Time with Family is paramount for us. All that we do is centered around each other. Having special moments such as the retreat allows us to recharge, not only as individuals but as a couple as well," said Karen Sandness. "This marriage retreat was quite memorable and healthy for us because the materials covered allow us to look within and compare our present actions. We walked away with food for thought.
In addition to Strong Bonds, Behavior Health Specialists and Family Life Counselors are also available to the Special Operations Forces and their Families; this provides SOF leadership all means necessary to take care of their invaluable force and family.
"We all want the same thing, whether our relationship has just begun or we've been married for more than 20 years," said Croom. "We want a healthy relationship with the one we love. The highlight for me from this past weekend was being able to look at the couples digest the information and as I see them walking around, they are still engaged in talking about some of the topics! Love it!"
U.S. Army Special Forces Soldiers and Families have been faced with many stresses after more than 10 years of combat operations, the strain and pressure of multiple deployments, rigorous training schedules, and everyday demands of each other and self.
"This was a successful experience for leaders, Soldiers and their Families," said Lewis. "We received some really solid, positive feedback from those that attended about nearly every subject covered. Anytime someone says, 'That really helped' or 'I can use that to strengthen my marriage,' you can't help but call that event a success."