By Ms. Christie Vanover (IMCOM)February 3, 2009
MONS, Belgium - Prior to moving to Belgium, Elizabeth Schaffer was a consultant in Washington, D.C., where she taught leadership skills to government clients at prices exceeding $1,000 per day.
Now, Schaffer voluntarily teaches those skills through Army Family Team Building at the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe.
"AFTB is about more than how to read a paycheck," said Schaffer. "It helps solidify basic life skills that you never outgrow."
Schaffer, along with a handful of other volunteer instructors, spent a week teaching community members about handling personal conflict, communication, stress management, creative problem solving and more during the bi-annual AFTB Marathon.
Elisa Pellegrini-Miller, an Air Force spouse from Italy, has been looking for a job since moving to Belgium more than a year ago. To supplement her background in homeland security, she has enrolled in courses through the USAG Benelux Army Community Service to make herself more marketable.
She said because employers require good problem solving skills and conflict resolution she had been looking for related courses while living in the states and found they cost around $20,000.
"I thought this [AFTB] was a great opportunity," she said.
In the end, Pellegrini-Miller said she thinks the AFTB classes were "much better" than the alternatives she had researched.
"Here they understand what military spouses go through. In harsh situations, we have a totally different set of stress that goes with military life," she said.
Comel Rooms, the AFTB and Army Family Action Plan Program manager, agreed. "If you can be a change master instead of a change victim, you're going to be a strong Army Family," she said.
There is a stigma that AFTB is for new spouses, because it touches on basic military items like customs, 24-hour time, etc. However, Rooms said in the past six months two military spouses with 20 plus years went through AFTB and both said they can't believe how much they did not know.
"Who can't benefit from courses in communication and time management," said Rooms. "The more we can learn life skills and apply them in our home, work or relationships, we're working more cohesively."
People walk out with the skills that build strong military Families," she added referring to how AFTB is a conduit for the Army Family Covenant. "Our Army Family is happier; our work environment is more efficient because we're able to handle the things thrown at us."
AFTB is not just about the spouses in military Families. Two active duty Servicemembers also took part in the marathon.
Rooms said Soldiers earn promotion points by participating in the classes, and depending on the command, Soldiers can take the courses during duty hours. "It's a benefit for supervisors to have their folks go through this training," she said.
"We consider anyone a leader. We all have different points in our life where we take on leadership positions-as a mother, a volunteer coach or at work-those skills are worthwhile."
AFTB is broken up into three levels each with multiple classes. Pellegrini-Miller enjoyed how the courses were structured. "I took conflict resolution in college, but here they provide you with the theory, and they let you know how to apply it in every day life."
"We don't lecture," said Rooms. "It's class interaction where the group talks about its experiences."