Sequestration calls for REST

| June 28, 2013 | 0 Comments
Chaplain (Maj.) Scott Koeman (left) leads a pre-convoy prayer at Forward Operating Base Wolverine, Zabul, Afghanistan, Nov. 2, 2009. Koeman, then a captain with 4th Bn., 23rd Inf. Regt., is used to improvising, like REST in lieu of the Strong Bonds program. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Christine Jones)

Chaplain (Maj.) Scott Koeman (left) leads a pre-convoy prayer at Forward Operating Base Wolverine, Zabul, Afghanistan, Nov. 2, 2009. Koeman, then a captain with 4th Bn., 23rd Inf. Regt., is used to improvising, like REST in lieu of the Strong Bonds program. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Christine Jones)

Chaplain (Maj.) Scott Koeman
2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team
25th Infantry Division

As sequestration has hit the Army over the past several months, funding for the Army’s Strong Bonds program has also been cut.

Strong Bonds is service run by the Chaplain Corps; it helps married Soldiers work on their relationships with their spouses by getting them away from everyday life to a nice hotel and by attending workshops and classes led by Army chaplains.

All Strong Bonds training events for the 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, have been completely cut for the rest of fiscal year 2013. However, that’s not stopping the 2nd SBCT from carrying on with the mission to help its families.

In early March 2013, Col. Thomas Mackey, commander, 2nd SBCT, and I began strategizing and vision-casting about how to most effectively build a program that addresses the needs of marriages without loads of financial resources. It didn’t seem too difficult. It was a fairly straightforward formula:

•Find the best low-cost or free locations for training.

•Convert from PowerPoint to paper many of the ideas and material used in Strong Bonds, so classes and workshops can be taught on a beach or at a beachside pavilion.

•Buy or make cost effective food or even use a potluck method to feed everyone.

•Ensure the training is interactive, practical and engaging.

Of course, new programs are not always as simple as they may seem. You have to come up with a new, creative name. All of the 2nd SBCT chaplains came together to brainstorm and plan out the details of what we titled the “Relationship Enhancement & Sustainment Training,” or REST program.

We agreed that effective communication, the five love languages, forgiveness and commitment were crucial topics to be addressed in the program. We collaborated on the workshops and classes to make sure everyone would get the same great experience.

REST retains all the key material of the Strong Bonds program without the overhead. The biggest thing that separates the two programs is that the training locations are low-cost, or free, and the material is free from PowerPoint projection.

Col. Mackey said to me, “Chaplain, living in Hawaii has its benefits. We need to take advantage of it.”

One location that has worked well is the Sunset Lanai at Camp Smith. May 21, seven couples from 2nd SBCT gathered under the large lanai overlooking Pearl Harbor for their REST seminar. The view could have been distracting, since it’s so incredible. Instead, it created a nice, calm ambiance for learning that enabled couples to focus on their marriages in a very peaceful setting.

Not only were the training and location excellent and well appreciated, but they also were close to the participants’ homes, though surrounded by military operations.

It’s nice when Soldiers can dress comfortably in slippers, shorts and a T-shirt and relax while placing attention on their marriages. However, it’s never just about location. It’s content; the couples loved it.

One person noted on a card after the seminar, “This event may have saved my marriage.”

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Category: News, Sustainability

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