ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. - Aberdeen Proving Ground's Chaplain Services is planning an all-expenses paid, three-day, two-night training conference for fifteen married couples at the Hyatt Regency in Cambridge, Md. Dec. 6-8.

Strong Bonds is an Army-wide conference for active duty military, their spouses and single Soldiers. The Strong Bonds conference was designed to help Soldiers deal with communication issues and the stress of a modern-day military at war.

APG Installation Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Jerry Owens, who has over 25 years experience working with couples, said that making a marriage work is difficult, even in the best of circumstances. Military Families face difficult obstacles like deployments, long work hours and frequent moves; all can take a toll on a marriage.

Owens said that even though the Department of the Army has recently cut funds for certain programs, Strong Bonds training is still offered to build resilient Army Families.

"This is one of the programs [DA has] identified as being one of the most effective ways of strengthening marriages and building resilient Families," he said.

Participants in the conference will learn valuable lessons from the bestselling "Fighting for Your Marriage" workbook by Howard Markman, Scott Stanley and Susan Blumberg, which uses the widely acclaimed Prevention and Relationship Enhancement Program, or PREP approach.

Owens said that while studying the PREP approach, couples will explore different communication techniques, like active listening and finding "win-win" solutions to problems.

"Strong Bonds takes a proactive approach," he said. "We try to get in front of the problems and improve what is already working."

He added that every marriage, even good marriages, require maintenance.
"Every so often, couples should take time to discuss what they are doing right in their marriage and areas they need to fix," he said. "No one has the perfect marriage."

Owens and Chaplain (Col.) David Smith from Fort George G. Meade, will lead presentations and discussions assisted Sgt. 1st Class Elijah Mack, noncommissioned officer in charge of the Main Post Chapel.

Couples can register for Strong Bonds by visiting www.strongbonds.org, and selecting "Strong Bonds Families" and "APG Stong Bonds Couples Retreat." In addition to registering online, couples also must call the chapel at 410-278-4333 to confirm their reservation. Soldiers who decide to attend the conference must request "Permissive TDY" by completing a DA Form 31, submitted through their chain-of-command. A confirmed registration packet will not be handed out until a signed copy of DA Form 31 is provided and an "Agreement to Attend" is signed in person at the Main Post Chapel, building 2485.
Childcare will be provided on-site, at no cost to the couples.

Owens said that while space is limited, two Strong Bonds retreats are being planned for summer 2013, on dates to be determined.