PINE MOUNTAIN, Ga. - In an environment where Soldiers deploy at a moment's notice, taking care of families is vital to the success of the mission. This is especially true for a war fighting headquarters like Third Army/U.S. Army Central, who has been continuously deployed since 2001.

For this reason, Third Army/USARCENT held its annual family retreat at Callaway Gardens, Ga., July 17-19; giving families the tools that will help them sustain the hardships of deployment.

Families of both Soldiers and civilians took time out from their busy lives to spend the weekend working on their relationships while also enjoying butterfly gardens, acrobatics shows and swimming.

Sgt. Erika Anderson, Third Army/USARCENT G-6, attended the retreat with her husband Jerry and their two children. After attending the Strong Bonds marriage retreat at Fort Bragg, N.C., the Andersons knew they had to attend the family retreat.

"We found the marriage retreat so helpful," Jerry Anderson said. "They gave us a keychain that had good tips for listening on it. It worked so well for us that I shared it with my neighbors."

"When we are home, our daughter Ashley goes in her room and plays her game system," he said. "Our son Aydan is just a baby, I might be on the computer and my wife might be reading. Being out of the house gets you in the mindset that it's supposed to be about Family."

Erika Anderson agreed.

"It takes you out of your home and the stress of having to worry about work and bills and everything," Anderson said. "Being here you can primarily focus on time with your family."

In addition to enjoying the fun activities at Callaway Gardens, the Andersons also approached the practical exercises as an opportunity to work together.

During the first exercise, each family member developed a list of their own values. The second exercise brought them together as a family to create a mission statement.

"The exercise helped us learn what our values are as a couple and translate those to our family," Anderson said.

"Now that we know we are on the same page, we will translate these to our kids," Jerry Anderson said.

Third Army/USARCENT contractor Dan Hanley has deployed with the unit to Kuwait and several exercises such as Bright Star. He attended the retreat with his wife Aikena and their three children.

"A retreat like this helps with the separation and constant deployments," Hanley said. "It gives people different ways to communicate when they are away."

Horatio Keller, Hanley's son, agreed saying "this is fun because it helps us get out of the house and bond and show love towards each other."

Capt. Michael Cox, Third Army/USARCENT Special Troops Battalion chaplain, assisted with the retreat while also attending it with his wife and two sons.

"It breeds a lot of hope in me that people are concerned about their marriage and their families," Cox said. "You have to appreciate the attempt people are making to come out here and work on their relationships."

Cox explained that the retreat helps families build the tools needed to effectively communicate with one another while forming strong bonds that will help when one of them is away.

People are more effective at what they are doing and able to accomplish the mission while overseas if they trust that their families are OK and able to excel, Cox said.