Strong Bonds
Chaplain (Capt.) Dan Wilson, of the 717th Military Intelligence Battalion, leads a discussion among couples during the 470th MI Brigade's Strong Bonds couples retreat at Hilton San Antonio Hill Country Hotel & Spa March 21-23.

FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas -- What do children, work, school, extracurricular activities, social commitments, Family obligations, societal pressures and unforeseen circumstances have in common'

They all have the potential to cause stress in the life of a Soldier. Add a deployment or two to the mix and the stress becomes even greater.

Demands placed on Soldiers and their Families are great, and pressure increases during times of uncertainty such as a period of deployment. The need for Families to spend time together and engage in meaningful quality interaction is essential to sustaining healthy vibrant periods of separation as well as maintaining intimate ongoing relationships at home.

The military has acknowledged the value of Family and has therefore implemented the Strong Bonds program, which includes marriage enrichment retreats.

Offered by unit commanders, with the full support of unit chaplains, these two- or three-day retreats are designed to build upon a couple's relational skills, thereby being proactive in preventing divorce.

The Army pays for couples to attend the retreat to participate in seminars that focus on communication, intimacy and conflict management, which comprise most of the agenda, with free time allotted for couples to spend together, away from other distractions.

They are held at resorts, lodges and hotels that offer an array of relaxation services intended to lessen tensions that may exist between couples and help improve their perceptions about each other.

The 470th Military Intelligence Brigade held its latest retreat at the Hilton San Antonio Hill Country Hotel & Spa March 21-23.

The brigade's Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 717th MI Battalion and 401st MI Company sponsored the retreat with Chaplain (Maj.) Chris Floro and Chaplain (Capt.) Dan Wilson serving as facilitators.

Lt. Col. Theresa Walsh, brigade deputy commander, said it was an opportunity for brigade Soldiers and spouses "to enjoy the beautiful accommodations and spend some quality time."

She shared some statistics about current military divorce rates and reminded participants that this was a chance to strengthen relationships, build great communication techniques and really "hear" their loved ones.

Among the brigade's 18 participants were couples who attended Strong Bonds for the first time. Spc. Keila Rosado, of the HHD, and her husband, Alexander Maldonado, an Army Reservist, liked the "Tale of Two Brains" video sessions the best.

This look at the "Laws of Relational Physics" - the differences between men's and women's brains - was presented in a format that offered comic relief and gave couples a chance to laugh heartily with each other.

"It's funny, but it's reality," said Rosado. The couple, who have been married for 15 years, said the Strong Bonds retreat "helps keep the couple together."

"With a military career, it is hard to get time together," Rosado noted.

Capt. Michael Ballard, 401st MI Company commander, and Jessica, his wife of five years, agreed that they learned more effective ways of communicating and facilitating relationships, and how the opposite sex processes information.

The retreat also featured three other sessions: "The Key to Incredible Sex," "Why Does He/She Do That'" and "How to Stay Married and Not Kill Anybody."

"Strong Bonds retreats are affirming for couples who are on the right track," said Chaplain Wilson. "They also provide insight for those who may be running down the wrong road."

Page last updated Thu April 15th, 2010 at 14:15