What is Strong Bonds?
Strong Bonds is a unit-based, chaplain led program that helps Soldiers and their families build strong relationships. 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.
Initially, Strong Bonds was intended solely for married couples, but it has now been expanded to include single Soldiers, families with children, and the special needs associated with deployment and redeployment. In addition, it has been approved Army-wide to include Guard and Reserve units.
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.
Why is Strong Bonds important?
Statistics show that Strong Bonds is a vital and necessary program. Currently, 56 percent of today’s Soldiers are married. With increasing demands placed on Army families and Soldiers, including frequent deployments and relocations, intimate relationships are tested and many marriages end in divorce. Research shows that training in communication, intimacy and conflict management increases marriage satisfaction and reduces rates of family violence.
In addition, about 30 percent of first-year Soldiers drop out of the Army. It is believed that this drop out rate could be significantly reduced if the Soldier had strong support from his or her 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.
What is the history of Strong Bonds?
Strong Bonds originated in 1997 with a program for couples, which was referred to as Building Strong and Ready Families. Since then, over 1,300 training events have been held and over 30,000 couples have been trained. With satisfaction rate high among attendees (93 percent) and increasing support from commanders, the Army recognized the success of the program and approval was given for expansion of the program throughout the Army and Reserves as well as for expansion of the program offerings to include single Soldiers and families.
In 2005, with input from Soldiers, the chaplains named the program Strong Bonds and expanded program offerings to include help for the single Soldier and families.
Chaplains are now receiving training for the new single Soldier and family programs, which is being phased in over the next year. A new Strong Bonds program to address deployment/redeployment needs will be launched in October of this year.
How are the Strong Bonds programs delivered?
Strong Bonds programs are led by chaplains who offer training to the Soldiers at the unit level. Commanders ensure the program is adequately supported with necessary resources and time on the unit’s training calendar. The Army Chief of Chaplains manages a grant program to assist commanders in executing the program. Chaplains promote the program on post through public awareness officers and distribution of public service announcements, brochures, posters, and ads where appropriate. Participants signup online at www.strongbonds.org where they also complete a satisfaction survey upon completion of a Strong Bonds program.
What are the benefits?
• Creates a strong support group for Soldiers and families.
• Connects Soldiers and families to each other, the unit, and important resources such as chaplains.
• Helps Soldiers and family members develop skills that enable them to build resilient relationships and healthy families.
• Proactive and preventative, designed to recognize and correct any issues before relationships are in crisis mode.
• Ensures that Army children grow up in healthy Army families.
• Enables Soldiers to stay focused on the mission, improving readiness and retention.
What are the goals of current programs offered under Strong Bonds?
Strong Bonds Single Soldier
This program focuses on the skills of finding the right partner and building a great relationship. About 50 percent of our Soldiers are single and most will marry while on active-duty. Given these statistics, coupled with high divorce rates in general, the U.S. Army is committed to taking a proactive stance, providing Soldiers with decision-making and relationship building skills prior to marriage.
Strong Bonds Couples
Soldiers with strong spousal support make better Soldiers. The goal of the Couples Program is to strengthen the marital bond, giving couples the tools and information they need for better communication and relationship building. Soldiers and their spouses attend with other unit couples.
Strong Bonds Family
For Soldiers and families who are raising children, the challenges of maintaining closeness while raising healthy children can seem overwhelming. Strong Bonds Family teaches Soldiers, spouses and children to work together in order to ensure Army families stay close. Children age 8 years old and over can participate in most of the training. Because a large percentage of Army recruits are products of Army families themselves, supporting Soldier families in the task of raising children is also a long-term investment in the future of America’s Army.
Strong Bonds Pre- and Re-deployment
For most Soldier families, staying connected through the cycle of deployment is the ultimate challenge. Strong Bonds Pre- and Re-deployment provides tools to enable Army families to stay close through the deployment, and reintegrate back together at the conclusion of a long-term separation.
Is Strong Bonds effective?
Impact studies on Strong Bonds Couples Program demonstrated that couples who completed the program showed marked improvement in skills and habits that lead to increased marriage satisfaction and survival. Additionally, couples who attended Strong Bonds reported significant increases in their connection to the Army community and confidence that their marriage can thrive in the Army. More than 90 percent of those who participated in Strong Bonds reported that the program was helpful and appreciated.
Single Soldiers completing Strong Bonds Single Soldier report that, as a result of the program, they will approach the process of selecting and bonding with a spouse differently. More than 90 percent reported that the program was helpful and useful.
How do I access Strong Bonds?
Army Reserve and National Guard Commanders and Chaplains who want to offer Strong Bonds to their Soldiers should contact the US Army Reserve Command Chaplain’s office at (404) 464-8475 or the National Guard Bureau Chaplains office at (866) 839-7438.
Active Component Commanders and chaplains who want to offer Strong Bonds in their unit are encouraged to contact the Family Ministries Officer in the Army Chief of Chaplains Office at (703) 601-4448.
Soldiers or family members who want to attend Strong Bonds training should talk to their unit chaplain or go to http://www.strongbonds.org for information regarding dates and locations of training opportunities.