FORT BRAGG, N.C. - Relationship problems can cause emotional, physical and mental stress, which in turn can distract Soldiers from their mission and ultimately degrade their overall readiness. However, thanks to the Strong Bonds lecture series presented by military chaplains, Soldiers can receive training and advice for establishing positive relationships and stress management.

More than 20 single Soldiers from the Special Troops Battalion spent three days in Gatlinburg, Tenn. Dec. 29 through Jan. 1 for a single Soldier's retreat led by Chaplain (Capt.) Edward A. Coy, Special Troops Battalion, XVIII Airborne Corps.

Coy presented the Strong Bonds lecture series, "How To Avoid Marrying A Jerk," by Dr. John Van Epp, created to teach singles how to build a healthy relationship through mental and emotional techniques; as well as emphasize the importance of resiliency and coping strategies.

"Soldiers will have an easier time remaining calm and balanced in stressful situations when they learn how to use both their heart and their head when making decisions," explained Coy. "I use this retreat to remind Soldiers to be themselves while encouraging them to stay focused."

"Most importantly," explained Coy, "I want the Soldiers to see me as more than a chaplain or an officer; I want them to know I am a real person and am approachable; that I am here for them when they need me."

The Soldiers who participated in Strong Bonds spent the mornings in the conference hall participating in the lectures and had the afternoons free to become acquainted with one another and tour the town.

"It was great to get to meet new people and get away from the monotonous Army life," explained Pvt. Jacob Lockman, a radio operator with the XVIII Airborne Corps. "You get to meet other people that are outside your office and daily routine," he added.

"I enjoyed being able to hear the input from so many other single Soldiers during the discussions," said Sgt. Joseph Khan, an imagery analyst with the XVIII Airborne Corps. "I had never really thought about a relationship in an analytical manner before, but this lecture helped me organize my past relationships and gave me an idea how to better approach relationships, both personal and professional, in the future."

Whether this was their first time to attend a Strong Bonds event, or the third, many of the Soldiers who participated in the single Soldier retreat said they found it relaxing and look forward to attending again.

"The single Soldier retreat offers you a good way to separate yourself from the daily military rigor," said Khan. "And the lectures presented give you something you can relate to."

"I really hope I can attend more single Soldier retreats," Lockman said. "I would love to come back every time to keep meeting more new people."

For more information regarding future dates for "Strong Bond" events contact your unit chaplain.