Strong Bonds Lite: Innovative chapel program serves Soldiers, families
With ever tighter Army budgets, Chaplain (Capt.) Andrew Shriver, 421st Multifunctional Medical Battalion, has developed a less expensive alternative to the Army's Strong Bonds retreat program -- Strong Bonds Lite.

WIESBADEN, Germany - With budgets being slashed Army-wide, military chaplains are finding innovative ways to continue serving Soldiers and their families. That "resiliency" is not only evident in the services, support and programs they provide but also in the content of the training shared.

"The big thing is educating commanders, G4s, and G8s," said Chaplain (Capt.) Andrew Shriver, 421st Multifunctional Medical Battalion.

Shriver was explaining that chaplains are always developing new programs to find more cost-effective ways to provide opportunities for relationship building even in a time of downsized budgets.

A result of that innovative approach is Shriver's Strong Bonds Lite seminar program. The two-day, scaled-down version of the Army's Strong Bonds program offers commanders and units a flexible enrichment opportunity that doesn't require a lot of funding and provides local support.

"Commanders are thankful that I can come to their local area and offer different programs for their Soldiers," said Shriver whose unit is spread throughout Germany in six locations. "The Strong Bonds Lite program is one way in which chaplains can continue to assist their Soldiers and families when it comes to relationship enrichment training."

Shriver said he was "greatly encouraged" by U.S. Army Europe Chaplain (Col.) David Moran and his staff while getting a new legal review for this fiscal year for the Strong Bonds Lite program.

With a typical retreat costing from $25,000 to $27,000, Strong Bonds Lite seminars offer a cost-effective alternative, running from $200 to $800, depending on how many people take part (and how many children require child care). "Commanders don't have all the money in the world, but they can make time for the two-day program," he said.

Typically, the two-day program includes a day of instruction with lunch at a local restaurant and then a day to put into practice the newly acquired relationship skills. "We have different tracks for single Soldiers, single parents and couples. We can create different groups of seminars for different needs," Shriver said, explaining that whatever the requirement -- pre- or post-deployment -- or throughout the year, Strong Bonds Lite can be tailored to fit the bill.

Unit cohesion and enhancing family relationships are among the goals of the program, Shriver said. "Many are grateful that their commanders give them time during the workday to participate in the program. Getting the training before or after a deployment gives them time to practice what they've learned with their families."

Team building is also an important part of Strong Bonds Lite. "People get to know each other better during the two-day program," he said, which in turn makes for "more unit cohesion."

"I've had dozens of chaplains asking about the program," Shriver added.

For more information about Strong Bonds Lite send an email to andrew.s.shriver.mil@mail.mil.

Page last updated Mon December 12th, 2011 at 00:00