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AZ Airmen gain new perspective during Strong Bonds retreat

  • Published
  • By 1st. Lt. Tinashe Machona
  • 161st Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – On a beautiful late September weekend, 10 members of the 161st Air Refueling Wing and I took part in an opportunity to learn more about ourselves, our fellow brothers-and-sisters-in-arms and the tools necessary to better our outlook on life by attending the 2018 Strong Bonds retreat for single Airmen. The event, hosted by the 161st ARW Chaplains office, took place at the Scottsdale Resort at McCormick Ranch on September 21-23.  

Throughout the year, the Wing’s Chaplains organize Strong Bonds retreat-weekends for singles and couples, to enhance individual resilience and strengthen communication skills.


Each session has a unique theme. The 2018 singles theme was “Got Your Back” – a topic designed to help build awareness, promote mindful choices, emphasize relationship skills, and encourage participants to value themselves as citizens in this world.


Led by Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Thad Todd, Tech. Sgt. Patrick Clawson and Staff Sgt. Lisa Cimino, the program featured a number of fantastic character-building activities that allow us to broaden our horizon on life’s opportunities and yearn to be the best version of ourselves in all aspects of life.

Each instructor presented their expertise in a myriad of life’s experiences to include building relationships, inter-personal communication skills, anger and stress management, as well as physical and emotional health.

One of the more poignant activities I experienced was led by Cimino, which involved entering a Zen-like moment, where participants closed their eyes and imagined being in a stress-free environment. The activity helped me view life through a different set of lenses and increased my belief that personal endeavors in life have to be solidified in the mind first before they become a reality.

Master Sgt. Angie Perez, the Wing’s noncommissioned officer in-charge of the command support staff for the operations group, had the same perspective of the activity. “I enjoyed the activity that Lisa Cimino guided us through”, Perez said. “The activity helped everyone eliminate stressful things in our lives and created a setting for us to exercise our breathing.”

At times there is a misconception that Strong Bonds caters to a particular religion or it is only for married couples. Rather, the event aims to help participants harness their abilities to develop all types of relationships and succeed in their daily activities.

From my own experience, the group of participants and the staff involved were extremely enthusiastic. There was a lot of energy and a clear determination to learn essential skills necessary to increase strength and optimism for life’s challenges.

Perez echoed my sentiments exactly when she said, “The program helped me think outside the box and allows me to see things in a different light.”