News>Feature - Better than best friends: retreat strengthens marriages, eases post-deployment reintegration
Anthony Landry and Kelly Simpson introduce themselves at the first workshop of the reintegration and marriage retreat held by the Airman and Family Readiness Center April 8-11. In addition to their training, both instructors were familiar with military life. Mr. Landry is a retired Army lieutenant colonel and Mrs. Simpson is the wife of a retired Air Force JAG. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Jacob Corbin)
Tech. Sgt. John Solis speaks with Senior Airman Willie Lopez and Senior Airman JaQuari Lopez at the welcome session of the reintegration and marriage retreat held by the Airman and Family Readiness Center, on April 8. Sergeant Solis is a member of the 14th Security Forces Squadron and both senior airman are part of the 14th Communications Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Jacob Corbin)
Senior Airman Brooke Wood, 14th Medical Operations Squadron, tries to pass a playing card to her husband Senior Airman Michael Wood, 14th SFS, during an exercise at the reintegration and marriage retreat held in Tuscaloosa, Ala., April 8-11. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Jacob Corbin)
Adam Hardin and Gianna Muscarella explore a statue during an excursion for children attending the reintegration and marriage retreat with their parents April 9. Adam is the son of Kelli Hardin, 14th Contracting Squadron, and Gianna is the daughter of Carmine Muscarella, AFRC. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Jacob Corbin)
Shirley Pickney and Senior Airman Michael Wood act out the “stonewalling” negative behavior during a group exercise at the reintegration and marriage retreat held by the AFRC April 10 in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Mrs. Pickney works at the AFRC and Airman Wood is a member of the 14th SFS. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Jacob Corbin)
Chaplain (Maj.) Jason Raines and Tiara Skinner act out the “irrationality” negative behavior during a group exercise at the reintegration and marriage retreat held by the AFRC April 10 in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Mrs. Skinner is the wife of Senior Airman Marquis Skinner, 14th CS. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Jacob Corbin)
by Staff Sgt. Jacob Corbin
14th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs
4/15/2011 - COLUMBUS AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- Military members at times face long periods away from family and loved ones that may cause stress and difficulties in relationships.
A new program, spearheaded with a retreat held April 8-11, is aimed at improving resiliency and easing reintegration by strengthening the bonds of a relationship both before and after a deployment.
The retreat, held outside Tuscaloosa, Ala., had over 81 total participants and featured two and a half days of workshops aimed at not only at building up relationships, but having fun while doing it.
Kelly Simpson, one of two instructors at the retreat and wife to a retired Air Force JAG, said the workshops goal is to foster a kinder, gentler approach between married couples and an appreciation of each other.
"We want people to leave with a closeness that re-emerges and some fun memories," she said. "I think military members have more challenges than most couples. They have to work harder at things than most of the world to keep them strong."
She also offered advice for members facing deployments who were unable to attend the event.
"Be really intentional about how you are going to stay close over the deployment," she said. "Focus on how you are going to communicate, when you are going to communicate and what you're going to communicate about. Traditions are also important to maintaining closeness while away. When you reunite in person, you'll feel more like you haven't skipped a beat."
According to members of the Columbus AFB Airman and Family Readiness Center, the workshop had just the effect they and the instructors hoped for.
"Couples said they not only learned things about each other, but themselves also," said Carmine Muscarella, AFRC lead for the retreat. "(Marital stress caused by deployments) is really one of the biggest issues servicemembers face today."
Senior Airman Willie Lopez, who attended the retreat with his wife Senior Airman JaQuari Lopez, said the retreat was definitely a positive experience.
"I thought it was a great opportunity for my wife and I to take a break from things," he said. "It gave us time to bond."
Airman Lopez said the childcare provided throughout the entire event helped greatly. Both Airmen and are members of the 14th Communications Squadron and have a four-month-old daughter.
The retreat was held by the members of the Integrated Delivery System - the grouping of helping organizations on base including the AFRC, Chapel, SARC, Family Advocacy and medical group - and was just the beginning of future marital and relationship programs.
During the days before and at the retreat, 13 members of the IDS were trained and certified in courses on relationships, deployment reintegration and resiliency.
Laura Clagg, AFRC director, said she hopes the retreat will help spread the word about the positive effects of things like the retreat on marriages. She said it's important for people to realize you don't have to have marital problems to work on strengthening your relationship, and events like the retreat are safe places to work towards that goal.