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Strong Bonds Help Make 11th ACR Army Strong

Strong Bonds Help Make 11th ACR Army Strong

Source: 11th ACR Public Affairs

Big Bear Lake Mayor Liz Harris meets with Soldiers and their Families from 1st Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, during a traditional Thanksgiving dinner at the Robinhood Resort, Nov 23.

By SPC Zachary A. Gardner

Navigating through the tricky waters of love can be difficult for anyone and it is often harder for Soldiers because of the nature of Army life. To help build and strengthen the relationships of their Soldiers, the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment held a marriage retreat for the Soldiers of 1st Squadron, 11th ACR at the Robinhood Resort at Big Bear Lake, Calif., Nov. 22-24.

The main focus of the retreat was to educate Soldiers on the Army’s Strong Bonds Program through interactive workshops, a holiday celebration and a much-deserved break for couples, all complete with childcare. The Strong Bonds Program is unit-based and headed by chaplains to help build resiliency and strengthen Families within units. The overall goal of the program is to educate Families by teaching them the skills that they need to have a healthier relationship.

“There are stresses in life period, but being in the military adds a lot of stress,” said Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Kevin M. Leideritz, 11th ACR Regimental Chaplain. “A permanent change of station or separation from deployment can add a lot of stress on a person. I think the Army is starting to recognize how military service can put stress on servicemembers and the Strong Bonds Program is designed to help with that.”

All marriages have their trials and tribulations, but Soldiers and their Families stationed at Fort Irwin face a unique set of challenges that are different from almost any other Army post. Many of the Soldiers in the 11th ACR spend the better part of any given month working in the field, away from their Families, but unlike a deployment, they aren’t really gone, they are just a few miles away.

“Married couples face similar problems to those being deployed while at Fort Irwin, but it’s almost worse in a way,” said Chaplain (Capt.) Billy Graham. “Because with a deployment, a Soldier says their farewells, and they get on a bus and they are gone. In the mindset of a spouse, they understand that they will have to take charge and take responsibility for a year or so. Here, it is more difficult because the spouse has to handle things for a while but their Soldier isn’t really gone. The Soldier will be home in just a couple of weeks. So, the stressors are almost worse because the Soldiers have to disengage from their Families and then reengage frequently. It creates a very difficult dynamic for Families.”

Although the Soldiers and their Families spent a great deal of time in the classroom, they were also given ample free time to explore the city of Big Bear Lake and spend quality time with each other. During most retreats, couples are afforded a romantic dinner night at the Robinhood Resort’s restaurant. However, during this retreat, couples were surprised with a traditional Thanksgiving dinner and received visits from the mayor of Big Bear Lake, Mayor Liz Harris, Santa Claus and entertainment from magician Jerry “Magic J” Sheen.

“I would like couples to take what they’ve learned from the retreat and make the necessary changes in their lives,” said Chaplain (Capt.) James J. Choi. “We don’t have the power to change people but they have the power to change themselves. With the tools that they take away from the seminar and the retreats, these couples will be able to improve their marriages.”

Although there are countless examples on the comical differences between men and women, and the problems they cause, in movies and on TV, the fact of the matter is that it isn’t as funny and clear-cut as what is often seen in the media. Like anything in life marriages require work, and just like anything worth working for, it’s not always easy. The Army’s Strong Bonds program allows chaplains to help and educate Soldiers and their Families in order to make the process easier and the Army Family stronger.

If you are stationed at Fort Irwin and would like more information on upcoming marriage retreats and seminars please e-mail Sgt. Christina I. Parmeley at, or call 380-4913.

If you are not stationed at Fort Irwin, but would like more information about Strong Bonds, visit