[ The Real McCoy Online Home ]                                                                                                                     January 14, 2011

88th Regional Support Command hosts Strong Bonds Family Enrichment

Story & photo by Staff Sgt. Darrin McDufford, 88th Regional Support Command Public Affairs Office

Relationships change and exist in a state of flux and generally evolve over time. Some will transform invisibly and couples won’t even notice the difference. When the couple, team or pair is separated by time and distance, this strain of change is all more apparent.

PHOTO: A participant picks a ball during a Strong Bonds Military Family Enrichment module. Photo by Staff Sgt. Darrin McDufford
A participant picks a ball during a Strong Bonds Military Family Enrichment module. The ball would give him the floor to speak his mind and tell his mother how he feels about her as his mother during the event at Wisconsin Dells in December.

About 13-years ago the Army began the Strong Bonds program, designed to strengthen the bonds of Army Families to as tight as that of Soldiers serving together. Since the program began, hundreds of thousands of Soldiers and their Families have participated.

The 88th Regional Support Command (RSC) sponsored its first Strong Bonds Military Family Enrichment event at Wisconsin Dells in December.

The three-day event was designed to help military Families interact with each other through positive exercises, activities and teaching.

“The events require a year of scheduling to make them happen. We (the 88th RSC) are service oriented, and we knew we needed this event,” said 88th RSC Chaplain (Capt.) Robert Sunman. “The operational, functional and training commands drive the needs for most retreats, and this fiscal year there are 22 events.”

Strong Bonds Military Family Enrichment is the latest iteration in the program to keep Families together, and this event had a representation of Soldiers who were mobilized or deployed. Army Reserve Troop Program Unit members also were included.

“The logistics and administration of these events requires hours of work by Soldiers whose sole purpose is to help other Soldiers. The events are ever-changing and fluid as the instructors consistently update their modules depending upon societal changes, comments from event attendees and to keep the content up-to-date,” Sunman stressed.

During the weekend, participants had time to focus on the Family environment and could take time out of the daily grind for a little fun and relaxation.

Instructors held classes that focused on common Family dysfunctions. Families worked on team projects and swapped children with other Families to complete those projects as if it was a reality TV show.

Other classes separated the children from the parents so that they could focus on each other as the nucleus of the Family, the strong bond that builds ready Families.

Sgt. Terri Groves, staff administrative technician with the 415th Civil Affairs Battalion in Kalamazoo, Mich., said her Family learned most from the events requiring cooperation and communication.

“My son, Robert, said he liked the part that he got to tell (me) and everyone what he most appreciated about me being his mother,” Groves added.

“My Family needed better ways to interact. We are a Family brought together through marriage and sometimes the kids just squabble,” said Staff Sgt. Marcus Marshall, 3rd Brigade, 75th Division located at Fort Sheridan, Ill. “We learned different methods to getting along as a Family, and we are practicing implementing them.”

The overall measure of success of this event and other Strong Bonds events comes from surveys that attendees complete. The 88th RSC consistently has scored an average of 4.64 points out of the possible 5 points, which is significantly above the Army Standard of 4 points.

Soldiers wishing to attend any of the Strong Bonds events should contact their unit chaplain or go to http://www.strongbonds.org for more information regarding dates and locations of upcoming events.

In addition to the Military Family Enrichment other opportunities are Marriage Enrichment and Single Life Enrichment.

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