FORT HOOD, Texas - The Army lifestyle is not an easy one for a marriage to endure. Time away from home due to deployments or training missions often leaves a strain on a relationship that can be hard to cure.

Married Soldiers of the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, know all too well about the challenges that the Army lifestyle presents. Many have deployed on multiple occasions, and the brigade is scheduled to deploy again this spring to Afghanistan.

With that, the brigade organized a marriage retreat, Dec. 17-19, in Austin.

The retreat included training derived from the Army's Strong Bonds Couples Program, a program that is designed to enhance Soldier readiness by providing tools that they can use to build strong relationships with their spouses.

As the brigade's Soldiers prepare to embark on yet another mission overseas, the importance of this kind of training has escalated.

"The stresses that arise as a result of multiple deployments can be hard to deal with, especially for the spouses who are left home waiting for their husbands or wives to return," said Chaplain (Maj.) Xuan Tran, brigade chaplain, 1st ACB. "This retreat provided the couples a chance to come together and learn how to tackle issues that can surface before, during, or after a deployment."

A total of 34 married couples and families from the brigade attended the retreat, according to Tran.

One of the couples who attended saw the mutual benefits that this training can provide to a Soldier and his or her spouse.

"An event like this is truly beneficial when you think about the challenging high operational tempo that our brigade is facing as we prepare to leave again," said Sgt. Carl Harz, of Tampa, Fla., an administrative assistant with Headquarters Company, 1st ACB.

It's easy to get caught up in the madness that ensues and stray away from working to maintain a healthy relationship, said Harz.

Harz married his wife more than twenty years ago, and he has spent three of the last five years of his marriage away in a combat zone.

"If there isn't good communication and trust between a husband and a wife during a deployment, then problems can definitely arise," she said. "This training re-emphasized both of those key aspects in a relationship, and I thought that was very important."

Both of them know first-hand about the challenges that a relationship faces during a deployment, but Harz noted there were other couples who were novices in that regard.

"My wife and I met a few couples who had less than a year together and who are new to all of this, and I think this training benefited them as well," said Harz.

Couples who are new to the Army lifestyle don't know what to expect, added his wife Karen.

As for the training, it also emphasized what Tran noted were some of the essential ingredients to a successful relationship: forgiveness, understanding, and having perspective when it comes to a relationship.

Moreover, the weekend wasn't just about the training.

Throughout the weekend, the couples along with their children were provided time to interact with the other families, or spend quality family time together at the resort or nearby downtown Austin.

Tran summed up the importance of the weekend's events as a whole.

"I think the families really enjoyed and relished the opportunity to come down here, spend time together, and at the same time learn how to strengthen their marriage," said Tran.

Military families need to know how to work as a team, especially when a Soldier deploys, said Tran.