FORT CAMPBELL, KY -- FEB. 6, 2009 --- Soldiers from 3rd Brigade Combat Team (Rakkasans), 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) and their families enjoyed a long-awaited and well-earned retreat Jan. 23-25 at the Sheraton Music City Hotel in Nashville.

More than 115 couples gathered at the luxury hotel to focus on how to have stronger, happier marriages. Battalion Chaplains taught on topics from 'having fun in marriage' to 'fighting fair.'

Nearly 100 children were cared for by workers from Fort Campbell Youth Services while their parents attended the classes.

"We were in a dark place in our marriage when we arrived Friday," said one Army spouse who attended the retreat. "The first session shined a light on the solutions we were both looking for and opened the door to a conversation that neither of us knew how to begin. The darkness faded away quickly and with open hearts and open ears, we proceeded through the retreat knowing that we were going to be okay. It truly was the miracle we needed."

More than ever, the Army recognizes the strain put on families by multiple deployments. One way they have addressed this is through a program called "Strong Bonds." Developed at the University of Denver, Strong Bonds aims to reduce divorce by encouraging happier, safer marriages.

Chaplains are extensively trained in such topics as communication, keeping fun and friendship in marriage, sexual issues, and problem solving. "Improvement of the family leads to improvement of the unit," said Chap. (Capt.) Kurt Spond, 1-33 Cavalry. "The Army invests in Soldiers' families knowing that this is also an investment in the combat effectiveness of the unit."

While their parents learned about building stronger marriages, children enjoyed a variety of activities under the watchful eyes of workers from Youth Services. Kids ranged from 6 months through 13 years, and various rooms were set up for age-appropriate activities. The older children enjoyed arts and crafts, swimming in the hotel's heated indoor pool, and video games. Following each session, parents picked up their children and enjoyed buffet meals catered by the hotel.

"The purpose of these retreats is to provide an environment for Soldiers and their spouses to build stronger marriages," said Spond. "It's a time for them to focus on each other and be equipped with the tools they need."

Additional Strong Bonds retreats are planned for February and March. Comedian/Marriage Counselor Mark Gungor, author of Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage, will be the speaker at those events.