FORT SILL, Okla.-- Did you know the Department of the Army invested more than $1.1 million in Fort Sill Soldiers and families in fiscal 2011 through the Strong Bonds program?

Fiscal 2012 will see a similar investment with great returns through stronger relationships and greater spiritual resiliency.

Strong Bonds is an Army chaplain-led program designed to assist commanders in building, strengthening, preserving and restoring Army Soldiers and families. The program's mission is to increase Soldier and family readiness through relationship education and skills training. Chaplains also conduct specialized training for single Soldiers.

To maximize training benefit and impact, these events are scheduled at offsite locations. Strong Bonds events are conducted in a relaxed, stress-free environment conducive for learning relationship skills and developing strategies to address the impact of repeated deployments, resiliency and conflict. The retreat or "get away" provides an emotionally safe and secure training environment in which to address the effect of military lifestyle stressors.

The program has a brigade centric focus for the active component, state focus for the Army National Guard, and region based approach for the Army Reserve. It includes four subprograms: single Soldiers, couples, families and deployment phases to help single Soldiers, couples and families to thrive in the turbulence of the military environment.

Soldiers and their families attend with others in the unit who share the same deployment cycle. During the retreat, Soldiers and families participate in small group activities that reveal common bonds and nurture friendships. This shores up spousal support at home, which can be vitally important while the Soldier is away. In addition, Soldiers and families gain awareness of community resources that can assist with concerns about health and wellness, even crisis intervention.

Strong Bonds is a key resiliency program for commanders. It may be incorporated as part of the command's Soldier readiness and retention initiatives. The Army chief of chaplains is the proponent.

In fiscal 2010, the Army completed the third year of a five-year longitudinal study evaluating the outcomes of the Strong Bonds training program. Preliminary outcomes show a 50 percent lower rate in divorce with an increase in marital satisfaction for participants.The Army continues to provide relationship training tools and make them available to Soldiers and their families. For fiscal 2011, commanders from the active Army, the National Guard and the Army Reserve conducted more than 5,000 Strong Bonds events including units and Soldiers geographically dispersed from military installations.

Healthy relationships contribute to the maintenance of a healthy Army and a secure future force. With increasing demands placed on Soldiers and families, to include both frequent deployments and duty relocations, intimate relationships are fully tested. Research shows training in communication skills, intimacy and conflict management increases marital satisfaction and reduces rates of family violence. Building Army family resiliency is part of a strategic approach to cope with the high operational demand placed on today's Army.

For more information about upcoming Strong Bonds programs, contact your unit chaplain.

Page last updated Thu May 24th, 2012 at 00:00