By Mr. Russell Toof (99th RSC)February 1, 2017
BALTIMORE, Md. -- The Maryland Freemasons dedicated the Tremont Grand in Baltimore in 1822. In more recent years, it has served as a filming location for the Netflix series, "House of Cards.''
From Jan. 27-29, the historic hotel played host to the most recent Strong Bonds married and singles event held by the U.S. Army Reserve's 99th Regional Support Command.
Strong Bonds is a unit-based, chaplain-led program that assists commanders in building individual resiliency by strengthening the Army Family. The core mission of the Strong Bonds program is to increase individual Soldier and Family member readiness through relationship education and skills training.
"When I came here, I envisioned learning the keys to making (our relationship) work," said Spc. Amanda Jara, who married Sgt. Jonathan Jara less than a month ago. Jonathan is an information technology specialist with the U.S. Army Reserve's 865th Combat Support Hospital and Amanda is assigned to the U.S. Army Reserve's 393rd Medical Logistics Company as a medical logistics specialist. They met during an Innovative Readiness Training exercise in Arkansas.
As the youngest couple in attendance, they competed against the oldest couple and two other couples in a Newlywed game that was more focused on learning and bragging rights. Sgt. Jessie Purdy, a senior financial analyst at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, and his wife Kristin came away as winners. Their prize was a book about the Maryland Freemasons and the history of the Tremont Grand.
"The reason I came to this event was to learn how to better communicate with people both at work and at the unit," said Cpt. James Brinson, a field artillery officer with the U.S. Army Reserve's 80th Training Command in New Castle, Delaware. The event in Baltimore marked the second time Brinson had attended a singles event.
"The staff is excellent. They've put out great information and I've learned a lot," he added.
"Strong Bonds has become a part of what we should be doing," said Maj. Gen. Troy D. Kok, the 99th RSC's commanding general. Kok stopped by to address the participants for about 30 minutes on the last day of the event before taking some questions.
"It's essentially a free vacation. How many of those does the Army give you?" he added with a big smile on his face.
"Our Strong Bonds program exists to support our Soldiers and their families," said Chap. (Maj.) Timothy Elliott, Strong Bonds program manager for the 99th RSC. "That can only happen if Soldiers come. The events are open to everyone."
Information about upcoming events can be found at usar.army.mil/99thrsc or by emailing the 99th RSC Strong Bonds team at firstname.lastname@example.org