By Christopher FieldsJanuary 22, 2020
ARLINGTON, Va. - In an effort to help strengthen and support the familial bond of its Soldiers, the Army developed the Building Strong and Ready Families program in 1997. Now known as Strong Bonds, the Army continues to use the unit-based, Chaplain-led program in its effort to assist commanders in building strong, ready, and resilient Army families through relationship education and skills training.
Army Chaplain (Capt.) Justin Shannon, Chaplain for the Warrior Transition Battalion at Joint Base San Antonio, Texas, believes Strong Bonds is a great program for Soldiers and their families.
"Strong Bonds provides an opportunity for Soldiers to get away and not worry about anything else except for the training," Shannon said. "The program's curriculum is designed to help with relationships at home, work and the social aspects of life."
Chaplain Shannon says this is a key to the program. Those attending only need to find transportation to the venue; lodging, food and child care are all provided.
"People appreciate the chance to get away and focus on their relationships and how to improve communication skills," Shannon said. "There are a lot of times when Soldiers will just suck it up and drive on because they don't necessarily know a better way and that can create tension at home or at work. As a Strong Bonds instructor, I'm privileged to be invited into their personal space to help them learn a better way to live and improve these relationships."
The method to teaching the Strong Bonds curriculum is left up to the Chaplain leading the program. Chaplain Shannon chooses to make use of points of connection to help Soldiers understand the lessons.
"The individual making a connection with something bigger helps create a feeling of welcome and a sense of belonging," Shannon explained. "For example, someone who attends might resonate with a certain skill, maybe speaking and listening, finds a connecting point with others identifying with that same skill. It could come from common points of interest, hobbies, or similar family backgrounds. From that connection, a broader relationship can be built. So I try to help identify those connections and use them as a starting point."
Since his arrival at the WTB in June 2019, Chaplain Shannon has conducted Strong Bonds programs with the WTB's Cadre to get to know them and build morale. It has been well received by the staff and he hopes to be able to offer it to the WTB Soldiers soon.
"I think Strong Bonds could be beneficial to our Soldiers in Transition, the wounded, ill or injured, as well because they are focused on their next step in life: 'Where am I going to be?' or 'What's going to happen to me and my family?'" Shannon said. "For these Soldiers, it's the inevitable life change, versus finding and making that connection. It's a connecting point from inside their transition and helping to accept a hopeful future and goals as potential for their success. Strong Bonds is a great tool to help with that."
According to the Army's Strong Bonds website, the program is offered Army-wide and has helped more than 130,000 Soldiers and family members over the past year, leading to an increase in funding and new programs to meet Soldiers' needs at different phases of the relationship cycle (e.g. single, couples, families, and families facing deployment).
If you are interested in learning more about the Strong Bonds program or attending an event, visit https://www.strongbonds.org/.