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What is Strong Bonds?

By CH (LTC) Birch Carleton

What is the Strong Bonds program?

Strong Bonds is a chaplain-led program for commanders which builds relationship resiliency. The Strong Bonds mission is to increase Soldier and Family readiness through relationship education and skills training. 

Four Strong Bonds programs applied to the Army Force Generation cycle help Single-Soldiers, Couples and Families to thrive in the turbulence of the military environment. 

Attendees voluntarily participate in a Strong Bonds offsite retreat format designed to maximize relationship training impact. The retreat or “get away” provides an emotionally safe and secure training environment in which to address the effect of military lifestyle stressors.

What has the Army done?

Beginning in 1999, with four events and 90 couples in the 25th Infantry Division, Hawaii, Strong Bonds has spread throughout the Active and Reserve Components of the Army. 

In 2004, the US Code was amended to allow command funding for “chaplain-led programs to assist members of the armed forces … in building and maintaining a strong family structure,” (Title 10, ~1789). 

In FY 2010, the Army completed the third year of a five-year longitudinal study evaluating the outcomes of the Strong Bonds training program. Preliminary outcomes show a fifty percent lower rate in divorce with an increase in marital satisfaction for participants.

What continued efforts does the Army have planned for the future?

The Army continues to provide relationship training tools and make them available to Soldiers and their Families. For Fiscal Year 2011, commanders from the Active Army, the National Guard and the Army Reserve have planned more than 5,000 Strong Bonds events including units and Soldiers geographically dispersed from military installations.

Why is this important to the Army?

Healthy relationships contribute to the maintenance of a healthy Army and a secure future force. With increasing demands placed on Soldiers and Families, to include both frequent deployments and duty relocations, intimate relationships are fully tested. 

Research shows that training in communication skills, intimacy, and conflict management increases marital satisfaction and reduces rates of Family violence.

Building Army Family resiliency is part of a strategic approach to cope with the high operational demand placed on today’s Army.

For More Information:
For more information about the Strong Bonds program, visit the Strong Bonds Web site at www.strongbonds.org, see your unit chaplain, or contact the local installation chaplain's office.