161st Guard Members Learn to Build Strong Bonds

  • Published
  • By 2Lt Matt Murphy
  • 161st ARW
Servicemembers of 161st Air Refueling Wing and their spouses recently gathered at the Cottonwoods Resort and Suites in Scottsdale, Ariz. for the first ever Strong Bonds Marriage Retreat facilitated by the unit's chaplains. Strong Bonds is a unit-based, chaplain-led program which assists commanders in building individual resiliency by strengthening the Air Force Family. The core mission of the Strong Bonds program is to increase individual airman and family member readiness through relationship education and skills training.

Strong Bonds is conducted in an offsite retreat format in order to maximize the training effect. The retreat or "get away" provides a fun, safe, and secure environment in which to address the impact of relocations, deployments, and military lifestyle stressors. This new event for 161 ARW personnel utilized the Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage curriculum by Laugh Your Way America.

Capt. Lance Schrader, 161 ARW chaplain, and his wife Karla had the opportunity to lead the first Strong Bonds retreat for the unit. "[The program] provided a fair balance between curriculum driven instruction and one-on-one time with your spouse," said Schrader. "One of the exercises, called a flag page, helps you identify the five things in life your spouse feels best about. You get to understand what their five motivators of happiness are," he added.

Karla Schrader said, "One of the most meaningful aspects of the seminar, for me, was the chance to interact with that part of my husband's life. I was thrilled to get to know even just a handful of the men and women who make up the [161 ARW] family, a group that I otherwise might never meet. It also was a joy to hear the sharing that went on within the group. So many were willing to talk about their own lives and marriages, what works and doesn't work, and then to both laugh and cry together. It's affirming to know that our experiences are not weird or wacky. Rather, they're universal and completely normal."

Tech.Sgt. Karl Schaller, 161st Force Support Squadron food services manager, also known as "Chef Karl" to the unit, attended the retreat with his spouse. "It gave me insights for a better relationship - enlightenment for a better marriage. If no one says you can throw your socks and underwear on the floor then it is not okay. You should pick them up," said Schaller. He also said the program gives you a whole meaning in understanding how to communicate with your spouse. He said he called his mom about the program and his married children and they are making it a family affair to "laugh their way to a better marriage."

"It helps women understand men and men understand women," says Staff Sgt. John Baltz, 161 ARW chaplain assistant . Sergeant Baltz and his wife Debbi are new parents and he shared how the retreat gave them a new perspective on one another and they can come to a mutual better understanding of each other's needs.

"It helped me to open up and see my faults as a husband and it will help me change my habits," added Sergeant Baltz.

Captain Schrader and Sergeant Baltz also commented how the retreat was a great opportunity to get to know their fellow Copperheads. "Being with people in our unit to build relationships, it has given us a common language to understand one another at a different level," said Captain Schrader.

The Chaplains office has plans to host two marriage retreats in 2011 and one retreat for our single airmen focusing on building string relationships are approved and underway. For information on Strong Bonds events visit www.strongbonds.org or contact the chaplain office at 602-302-9078.