Programs help develop the total Soldier, strengthening relationship skills and the family support structure

SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii - While more than 30,000 Solders and family members have attended Strong Bonds events in the past, the Army will continue to provide significant funding to this vital and important training in 2010.

The strong and prepared Soldier is always supported by a family that is now recognized as vital to our success.

The Army is only as strong as the Soldier, and the Soldier is only as strong as his family.

Army Soldiers sacrifice for our country every day, and so do their loved ones.

Military life places extreme hardship on these relationships, especially in wartime, so the Army - backed by Congress - has committed unprecedented resources to help Soldiers build stronger relationships through the Strong Bonds program.

Excellent past experience combined with beautiful world-class facilities in Hawaii make these programs a must do.

What is Strong Bonds'
Before a Soldier can take part in this fantastic benefit, he or she needs to understand that the term Strong Bonds is actually an umbrella of programs.

The programs are organized and led by chaplains and chaplain assistants, and have specific requirements for couples, families and single Soldiers.

The material that is covered in the course, as well as the length of the course, is standardized for each of the programs. Couples and family events may also include child care during the classes, but availability may vary.

Finally, those Soldiers being deployed or redeployed can also learn special coping tactics and skills that will enhance their deployment preparation or family reintegration.

Strong Bonds truly touches lives
Following a recent U.S. Army-Pacific couples retreat, I received the following e-mail message: "I wanted to write and say thanks again for the marriage retreat. I know that a lot of time and effort went into getting this organized.

"My husband and I truly enjoyed it and took away some lifelong skills. I commend the Army for recognizing the need for this type of support.

"Once again thanks so much for a great time, and keep up the great work. It truly touches lives."

Strong Bonds not only touches the lives of couples but also single Soldiers as well. The statistics indicate that about 50 percent of single Soldiers will get married while on active duty. The classes help them make better decisions as they choose a mate.

Single Soldiers often feel lonely and depressed. They are far from home, and these pressures can often lead to poor decision-making in the selection of a spouse.

According to the Strong Bonds Web site, more than 90 percent of Soldiers who have participated believe the program has had a positive impact on their lives and would recommend attending to another Soldier.

How do I sign up for a Strong Bonds event'
Soldiers or family members who want to attend Strong Bonds training should talk to their unit chaplain first. An additional resource is the Strong Bonds Web site - - that lists information regarding dates and locations of training opportunities.

Whether you are selecting a spouse or working on your marriage and family relationships, these events will pay big dividends and should be considered a must do.

Soldiers should consider these programs a part of their total wellness as we strive together to maintain our minds and bodies and spirits all for the glory of God.

(Editor's Note: Footsteps in Faith is a weekly column written by the chaplains who support U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii's Religious Support Office.)