HONOLULU, Hawaii - Finance problems can one of the greatest strains on a relationship and well being, and the Army has a solution. Soldiers and spouses of the 9th Mission Support Command are this year able to participate in the first Financial Stewardship Training Strong Bonds, with training events offered across the Pacific.
"When I first joined the military, no one said anything about managing money, just you're going to get a paycheck the first and the fifteenth of the month," DeeAnn Phillips, 9th Mission Support Command Assistant Strong Bonds Program Manager, said. "But what we know today is, especially with divorce and suicide rates, financial issues are such an integral part, and we want to help work through it and plan for better."
The first training successfully completed recently with a three day event in Waikiki Jan 25 - 27 with much positive feedback from participants, both those who had recently joined the Army Reserve and even those nearing retirement.
"Usually Strong Bonds focuses on marriage and couples, relationship enhancement types of training, and then for singles, it's often relationship oriented as well, but this year, we came up with the idea of focusing on finances, because in more than 50 percent of couples that end up in divorce, finance is the number one issue that causes it," said (Chaplain) Lt. Col. Peter Strong, Deputy Command Chaplain, 9th MSC, and Strong Bonds Program Manager. "We all benefit from having a sound financial foundation, especially with and as a suicide prevention, when you look at those who have attempted suicide, often there is a loss of a loved one or there is financial difficulty related in their life situation as well," Strong said. "The response was overwhelmingly positive, many people said they wish they would've gotten this when they started their Army career years ago."
Karen Lamb, preparing for her husband Lt. Col. Daniel Lamb's retirement from the Army concurred.
"I wish we had this twenty six years ago when we first got married," said Lamb. "No one tells you about this stuff; this is stuff that Dan and I had to teach ourselves along the way. There are different programs out there, but there are a lot of for profit companies that seem like a great thing, but something like this, with financial planning, how to make your paycheck go longer, and so much more, the stuff that we learned here, I wish my adult children could listen to. It should be made available to all service members."
One of the additionally unique things about this training, according to Strong, is combining the singles and the couples together and then separating them for small group break out sessions therefore making it a first for the U.S. Army Reserve Command, or USARC, to host a combined event focused on finance.
USARC Chief, Soldier and Family Ministry Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Renee Kiel observed the training and was equally impressed with the reactions to the new curriculum used with the importance of incorporating this aspect of resiliency into daily life.
"Where I work at USARC I deal with suicides and suicide prevention and awareness and a lot of the review boards on suicides reveal that there often several financial components to those who commit suicide, so I can see for both singles and couples, from a myriad of perspectives, relationships and their emotional well being, that having this kind of training really helps and contributes towards resiliency of Soldiers and their families," Kiel said. "I think it's a great training, I'd like to see it continued, I'd like to see it approved through the Chaplain Corps for Reserve Soldiers, I don't think it should be the only curriculum used but should be a tool in our tool kit."
The Strong Bonds program itself is a unit-based, chaplain-led program which 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. These financial trainings are still a part of Strong Bonds, with a focus on financial training.
"The unique nature of Strong Bonds is the Army pays for two nights at a hotel, so Reserve Soldiers actually get paid to come to benefit from the program and it's a training weekend," Strong said. "So I tell them, they are going to learn, but have fun, so we have a good time learning."
"There is always something more we can learn," he said. "If you walk away with one good idea from this training then you benefit, and we have a lot of good ideas to share."
Several more Financial Stewardship Trainings are planned within the command this year, in Alaska, American Samoa, Guam, the Big Island of Hawaii and Oahu. If you are an Army Reserve Soldier in the region, interested in more specifics, contact your Chaplain or DeeAnn C. Philips (808) 438-1600 extn 3560,email@example.com
"I know it's going to be amazing and they are going to have a changed life, and that is what it's going to be all about," Phillips said.