FORT BRAGG, N.C. -- After 15 years of Army service, two children and multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, Staff Sgt. Edi Rodriguez and his wife, Araceli, are no strangers to life as an Army Family and the challenges military couples face.Looking for ways to improve their marriage, the Rodriguez' joined 19 other 1st Sustainment Command (Theater) Families Feb. 19 to 21 for a Strong Bonds couples' retreat at Great Wolf Lodge in Concord, North Carolina."Soldiers of 1st TSC, and their Families, are on a constant cycle of deployment and redeployment, making events like this a major opportunity for the command to invest in the lives and well-being of Soldiers, their spouses, as well as their children," said Scottsdale, Arizona native Chaplain (Capt.) Nick Stavlund, battalion chaplain, 1st TSC Special Troops Battalion.The office of the Chief of Chaplains sponsored the retreat, which provided lodging, food and admission to the indoor water park and resort activities free of charge for attendees. In addition to the couples' training, the three-day weekend served as an opportunity for couples and their Families to get away from everyday stress, enjoy time together as a Family and get to know other Soldiers and families from the 1st TSC."Couples, and Families, need regular huddles. Even more, they need yearly training camps. Events like this will give couples rest, training, and fun memories," said Stavlund. "I expect that couples will go home and implement the stuff we talked about. We intentionally made things really practical in our last session - even giving all attendees a mason jar with a take-home assignment - because we want to provide every couple the opportunity to share with their spouse ways that they seek to be loved."The Special Troops Battalion Unit Ministry Team facilitated the training as an opportunity for couples to learn new ways of building and maintaining a healthy marriage. An optional training for parents was also available. It covered the basic concepts of the 'Love and Logic' parenting method to help parents have more fun and less stress while raising responsible children.Rodriguez, a Greensboro, Florida native, said he and his wife benefited from the training and learned that there are many ways to communicate with each other."It was a great experience. I am very thankful for the training that I believe has brought me closer to my wife," he said.Stavlund and Sgt. Brandon Ervin, a Dothan, Alabama native, and chaplain's assistant for the Special Troops Battalion Unit Ministry Team, have hosted more than a dozen Strong Bonds retreats."We hope to offer a Strong Bonds Singles event in April 2015, and another Strong Bonds couple's event in August 2015," said Stavlund.According to the website, Strong Bonds is a unit-based, chaplain-led program which assists commanders in building individual resiliency by strengthening the Army Family. Recognizing the importance of family support, the Army introduced the program Building Strong and Ready Families in 1997. Over the past year, more than 130,000 Soldiers and Family members have participated in over 3,700 Strong Bonds events.
For more information on Strong Bonds, contact your unit chaplain or search for an event near you at www.StrongBonds.org.