Strong Bonds at home enhance Soldier readiness
October 7, 2011
FORT STEWART, Ga. - Soldiers train to improve their leadership and physical fitness, to perfect their handle on Warrior Tasks and Battle Drills, and to grow in their assigned military occupational specialties. Conducting thorough, tough training is the most important part of every Soldier's day at work.
How many Soldiers, however, train at home to maintain and enhance resilient marriages?
If the high divorce rate statistics are any indicator, relationship fitness is too often pushed to the bottom of many Soldiers' priority list--if it's given any attention at all.
To combat what Maj. David R. Cromeenes, chaplain for the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Third Infantry Division, said he considers the biggest issue facing Military Families--developing and maintaining healthy relationships within the environment of constant deployments and relocations--the Army has and continues to provide Strong Bonds relationship-focused training events for both single and married Soldiers.
On Oct. 1, battalions within 4IBCT completed the final three of 14 Strong Bonds training events for the last quarter of the fiscal year.
Major Cromeenes said Strong Bonds training, which is sponsored by the Army Chief of Chaplains, is essential to building and maintaining Soldier readiness.
"I've never married anyone that has walked the aisle and said, 'I'm only in this part-time,'" Maj. Cromeenes said. "[People] want to be [married] for a long period of time. So, you're talking about marriage being the most significant long-term investment and biggest-impact decision you'll ever make."
"But you work somewhere," Maj. Cromeenes continued. "If you think of the value and the importance that marriage has across the spectrum of your lifetime, that's more important than your job. So, if it's going good at home, chances are that's probably a good Soldier."
Major Cromeenes said Strong Bonds works: over his collective 19 years of service between the Reserves and active duty, he has seen countless couples positively affected by increasing their level of relationship fitness.
One such couple is the Beans, said Sgt. 1st Class Arthur Woods, the brigade's chaplain assistant noncommissioned officer in charge. Sergeant First Class Woods is trained in Strong Bonds curriculum and helps Cromeenes and battalion unit ministry teams facilitate the training events throughout the brigade.
Sergeant First Class Charidy A. Bean, the noncommissioned officer in charge of signal for the 703rd Brigade Support Battalion, 4IBCT, and Master Sgt. Q.P. Bean, the brigade's operations noncommissioned officer in charge with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 4IBCT, said they have attended an additional Strong Bonds training event since their first in February of 2010.
The couple said they met during a deployment to Iraq and developed a strong friendship. Later, the friendship blossomed into a romantic relationship, Sgt. 1st Class Charidy said. When a Strong Bonds event was offered during their engagement, Sgt. 1st Class Charidy said she and Master Sgt. Bean decided to attend to explore their compatibility.
Master Sergeant Bean said that learning how to effectively communicate was paramount.
"We come from two different worlds… so communication can sometimes be an issue," Master Sgt. Bean said. "Not so much as [in] understanding or articulation, but just simply the way she's used to doing things versus the way I'm doing things."
Sergeant First Class Bean said parts of Strong Bonds are based in religion--but not the majority of the program--so Soldiers shouldn't get discouraged about going for that reason. And, she added, Strong Bonds events are not just for couples whose relationships are on the rocks.
"We didn't go because we were having problems with our marriage, we went to enhance our marriage," Sgt. 1st Class Bean said.
"I say every couple should take the opportunity to go to these marriage retreats because [they] give you tools that you can utilize to help you possibly make your relationship last… forever," Master Sgt. Bean said. "And that's my goal, for it to last forever."
The Beans said they attribute the strength of their marriage first to God, and second to actively engaging in marriage training. They added that they plan on attending future Strong Bonds events.
And the events will continue to be offered, Maj. Cromeenes said. The brigade chaplain said the 4IBCT unit ministry teams will be facilitating two events per quarter, one designed for single Soldiers and the other for married Soldiers.
Major Cromeenes said $720,000 has been allocated in the new fiscal year for Strong Bonds events for the brigade.
"Nothing worth having is easy," Master Sgt. Bean said. "[If in] the entire span of your marriage you're not learning something, then you're doing yourself an injustice."
"Understand that [the Army] is just a job," Master Sgt. Bean added. "Jobs come and go--wives and husbands should not."