500th MI hosts Strong Bonds in Waikiki

| March 6, 2015 | 0 Comments
Maj. Leo Moras, chaplain, 500th Military Intelligence Brigade, leads a group training session as part of the 500th MI Bde. sponsored Strong Bonds Program marriage retreat, in Waikiki, Feb. 20. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Thomas G. Collins, 500th Military Intelligence Brigade Public Affairs)

Maj. Leo Moras, chaplain, 500th Military Intelligence Brigade, leads a group training session as part of the 500th MI Bde. sponsored Strong Bonds Program marriage retreat, in Waikiki, Feb. 20. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Thomas G. Collins, 500th Military Intelligence Brigade Public Affairs)

Story and photos by Staff Sgt. Thomas G. Collins
500th Military Intellignce Brigade Public Affairs

WAIKIKI — Soldiers and family members from the 500th Military Intelligence Brigade gathered at the Hyatt Place Hotel, here, Feb. 20, to take part in the Strong Bonds program marriage retreat sponsored by the 500th MI Bde.

“Strong Bonds is a unit-based, chaplain-led program that helps Soldiers and their families build strong relationships,” said Chaplain (Maj.) Leo Moras of 500th MI Bde. “The program’s mission is to build Soldier readiness by providing skills the Soldier can use to strengthen his or her marriage and other relationships.”

The day began with a group breakfast followed by filling out a Primary Colors Personality tool booklet that allowed couples to discuss the similarities and differences in their personalities.

Capt. Isaac L. Shubert, chaplain, 715th Military Intelligence Battalion, 500th MI Brigade, discusses various ways to communicate in a relationship with a group of brigade Soldiers and families as part of the 500th MI Bde. sponsored Strong Bonds program marriage retreat, in Waikiki, Hawaii, Feb. 20. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Thomas G. Collins, 500th Military Intelligence Brigade Public Affairs)

Capt. Isaac L. Shubert, chaplain, 715th Military Intelligence Battalion, 500th MI Brigade, discusses various ways to communicate in a relationship with a group of brigade Soldiers and families as part of the 500th MI Bde. sponsored Strong Bonds program marriage retreat, in Waikiki, Hawaii, Feb. 20. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Thomas G. Collins, 500th Military Intelligence Brigade Public Affairs)

“This was exciting. The Primary Colors Personality quiz was right on,” said recently married Pfc. Marc-Anthony Bartolomeo, a New Jersey native, and human intelligence collector, 205th MI Battalion, 500th MI Bde. “After the quiz, we got to discuss the quiz in a group setting, and it brought attention to some things that I can work on to be better in my marriage.”

The Strong Bonds program is designed to allow unit chaplains the freedom to choose what curriculum or materials, like the personality quiz, are used during the retreats.

“Strong Bonds offers training to Soldiers at the unit level,” said Moras. “Each Strong Bonds program is targeted to meet Soldiers where they are in their relationship cycle and is administered through a training process that culminates in an off-site retreat.”

Each relationship is different. Some may need more nurturing than others, and some may just need to a few tools to add to their relationships.

“We came on this retreat to enable our marriage and allow it to continue to grow in a positive way,” said 20-year marriage veteran Sgt. Paul Crayton, a Dallas, Texas, native, and signals intelligence analyst, Company D, 715th MI Bn., 500th MI Bde. “Each phase of life poses new challenges to a marriage.”

One challenge that military members face is time away from their family, whether that is their spouse, children or other family members.

“With increasing demands placed on Army families and Soldiers, including frequent deployments and relocations, intimate relationships are tested and many marriages end in divorce,” said Moras. “Research shows that training in communication, intimacy and conflict management increases marriage satisfaction and reduces rates of family violence.”

Children of 500th Military Intelligence  Brigade families watch a movie while taking part in provided child care during a 500th MI Bde. sponsored Strong Bonds program marriage retreat, in Waikiki, Feb. 20. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Thomas G. Collins, 500th Military Intelligence Brigade Public Affairs)

Children of 500th Military Intelligence Brigade families watch a movie while taking part in provided child care during a 500th MI Bde. sponsored Strong Bonds program marriage retreat, in Waikiki, Feb. 20. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Thomas G. Collins, 500th Military Intelligence Brigade Public Affairs)

Healthy relationships give birth to ready and resilient Soldiers.

“To build resilient Soldiers, we must encourage and reinforce a strong family support structure,” said Col. Patrick J. Wempe, commander 500th MI Bde. “The Strong Bonds program does exactly that – investing in the relationships our Soldiers rely on in times of stress or need.”

In addition to building resilient relationships and Soldiers, it is also important to keep those Soldiers in the Army.

“About 30 percent of first-year Soldiers drop out of the Army,” said Moras. “It is believed that this dropout rate could be significantly reduced if the Soldier had strong support from family and loved ones. Frequent deployments and reunions present an even greater challenge to families who may or may not have the coping skills to address such stresses.”

Coping with stress and learning ways to overcome that stress is what Strong Bonds is all about and is directly in line with one of the brigade’s touchstones.

“The brigade touchstones are foundational in establishing an identity for the brigade. They are what we want to be known for,” said Wempe. “The first of these touchstones, ‘invest in people,’ is not necessarily all about money. As leaders, we must invest in professional and personal development and broadening opportunities for Soldiers and families, as well as encouraging innovation, underwriting disciplined risk taking and supporting personal growth efforts.”

Personal growth, especially in a relationship, can be frightening and takes courage.

“It takes personal courage and a leap of faith to open yourself up to a weekend of relationship-enhancing experiences. There is an element of anxiety that is natural when being completely honest about very personal, and sometimes emotional, aspects of our lives and relationships,” said Wempe. “I applaud the humility and motivation displayed by all of the event’s attendees. By attending, they are investing in themselves, each other and their relationships.”

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Category: Education, News, Training

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