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Strong Bonds Foster Positive Communication, Relationship Resiliency
by U.S. Army Wendy Arevalo, 1st Theater Sustainment Command
November 1, 2019

At 1st Theater Sustainment Command (TSC), the Strong Bonds family readiness program is making a positive impact at a command that deploys regularly.

The chaplain-led program aims to increase Soldier and family readiness through relationship education and skills training. The program offers events for married couples, single Soldiers and families.

March 9, 2019 - 1st Theater Sustainment Command Soldiers and spouses review literature during a Strong Bonds activity at a couple's retreat weekend held at the Sheraton Hotel in Nashville, Tenn. in March 2019. Strong Bonds is a chaplain-led program that aims to build relationship resiliency. (Courtesy photo)
March 9, 2019 - 1st Theater Sustainment Command Soldiers and spouses review literature during a Strong Bonds activity at a couple's retreat weekend held at the Sheraton Hotel in Nashville, TN. Strong Bonds is a chaplain-led program that aims to build relationship resiliency. (Courtesy photo)

Capt. Kevin Coulter, Special Troops Battalion (STB) chaplain, 1st TSC, discussed why it is important to put time in to strengthening your relationship.

“Investing more time into family (which will outlast Army careers) is valuable over the entire life of the Soldier,” Coulter said. “Army careers are temporary, but time and work need to be put into relationships.”

At 1st TSC, where personnel are deploying every six months, Strong Bonds can help families deal with separation.

“When people are constantly deployed, it just tears families up,” Coulter said. “Its really hard, and I think this helps that a little bit. If this helps, I support it,” he added.

The program is thriving at 1st TSC, with 117 people signed up (including spouses and their children) for the next couples retreat at the Omni Severin Hotel in Indianapolis.

The couples retreat weekends, which are open to active duty and their spouses, are free, with the exception of gas to and from the venue. Meals, a hotel room, books and childcare, are all included.

The couples retreat weekend starts Friday, with couples checking into the hotel, followed by dinner. Saturday kicks off with breakfast, followed by training, then a provided lunch. Couples are given free time on Saturday afternoon to explore the area, or have a date night. On Saturday evening, dinner is provided. On Sunday, there’s a breakfast and an optional prayer service, followed by the last couples training session.

Coulter said although the events are chaplain led, they aren’t religion-focused.

“The chaplains run it, and the religious part is optional (on Sunday),” he said. “We try not to make it that way because that may turn some people off.”

Coulter said the couples training retreats include training on building trust and communication. Couples play games, like the Newlywed Game, trust and team-building games, as well as question and answer sessions where participants submit questions anonymously into a box.

Spc. Dalton Thunstrom, human resources specialist, 1st TSC, said he has been to the couple events with his spouse and children multiple times.

March 9, 2019 - 1st Theater Sustainment Command (TSC) Soldiers and families gather for a group picture at a Strong Bonds couple's retreat weekend held at the Sheraton Hotel in Nashville, TN. Strong Bonds is a chaplain-led program that aims to build relationship resiliency. (Courtesy photo)
March 9, 2019 - 1st Theater Sustainment Command (TSC) Soldiers and families gather for a group picture at a Strong Bonds couple's retreat weekend held at the Sheraton Hotel in Nashville, TN. Strong Bonds is a chaplain-led program that aims to build relationship resiliency. (Courtesy photo)

He said he loves everything about the events.

“It’s pretty nicely set up; they reserve the hotel rooms ahead of time, the food situation is taken care of, the kids are watched, so there’s a lot of time to de-stress,” Thunstrom said.

He said he has learned a lot about positive communication at the retreats.

“We learned better ways to communicate with each other—non-negative ways of doing it,” Thunstrom said. “There’s toxic ways to go about doing things, and there’s not, and it teaches you the behaviors which are, and aren’t, ok.”

In addition to couple’s events, Strong Bonds also offers events for single Soldiers who aren’t married. Single Soldier events last one day, include a meal, and training sessions. They’re held at places where there are fun activities for the Soldiers, such as the Main Event, in Louisville.

At the Single Soldier events, training focuses on what to look for in a future partner.

For Thunstrom, there’s nothing not to like about the events.

“What’s not to love about free food, hotel, childcare, and the chance to strengthen your marriage,” he said.

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