The 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade Unit Ministry Team led Strong Bonds training to help Pegasus couples and single Soldiers develop healthier relationships, Nov. 22.

The Strong Bonds program is a unit-based, chaplain-led program designed to assist commanders in building individual resiliency by strengthening the Army Family.

“A Soldier who has his or her marriage and Family life together will be a stronger Soldier because they will be more resilient,” said Maj. Ron Webb, 82nd CAB chaplain.

The single Soldiers met at the North Carolina Military Academy on Fort Bragg to address how to best choose a partner.

Capt. LeyAnne Ward, chaplain, 122nd Aviation Support Battalion, drew her lessons from the book “How to Avoid Falling in Love With a Jerk: The Foolproof Way to Follow Your Heart Without Losing Your Mind” by John Van Epp, Ph.D.

“Most people don’t want to be alone, so we want to encourage Soldiers to be proactive and be able to make wise choices so they can enter lasting relationships,” Ward said.

To help the singles think through the relationship process, Ward discussed Van Epp’s relationship attachment model. The model is a visual chart that helps individuals gauge the levels of knowing, trusting, relying, commitment and touching between couples. These are, according Van Epp (2007), “…the different forces that create bonds in relationships,” (pp. 22).

“In order to remain in the ‘safe zone’ for a relationship, you should never allow one level to exceed the previous,” Ward said. “If so, the relationship will have a faulty foundation.”

Such insight was welcomed for Pfc. Kevin Smith, a singles participant. While he is currently single, Smith, who serves as an ammunition specialist with the 1st Bn., 82nd  Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, looks forward to one day being in a healthy, romantic relationship.

“Having a strong relationship would definitely help me to stay motivated at work,” Smith said. “I want to look forward to going home in the evenings.”

While the single Soldiers focused on preparing for a relationship, the Pegasus couples met at Belmont Village in Fayetteville, to learn how to strengthen their existing relationships.

“This training is an opportunity for our Soldiers and their spouses to add more to their ruck sacks in terms of tools they can use to strengthen their relationships,” said Capt. Paul Camiring, 3rd Bn. 82nd General Aviation Support Battalion chaplain.

Camiring joined Webb and Capt. Loren Sink, 2nd Bn. 82nd Aviation Assault Battalion chaplain, to help the couples learn how to reinforce their marital commitments.

The chaplains incorporated Van Epp’s RAM to encourage couples to communicate more effectively and supportively. By involving the audience in the discussion, the chaplains were able to apply the model to the couples’ life experiences.

“The synergy of this training is really important because it exposes people at different stages in their marriages,” Webb said. “One of the virtues of a group like this is that we can learn from each other.”

Spcs. Jonathan and Ashley Quint were one of the couples in the early stage of their marriage. The two, who both serve with the 122nd ASB, have only been married for four months.

“We’re still in our honeymoon phase,” Jonathan said. “We want to strengthen our communication skills so we won’t run into problems later on down the line.”

Some of the others who attended the training had a few more years of marital experience. Spc. William Shugart and his wife Dominga, of the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 82nd CAB, have been married for 11 years.

“The training was really helpful,” Dominga said. “It was really helpful to hear the comparison of the small things that irritate us to little pebbles in our shoes that can keep us from communicating effectively when we don’t deal with them.”

The Shugarts did not appear to have any ‘marital’ pebbles in their shoes, and they seemed focused on keeping it that way.

“From the things we discussed today, I can see that our marriage is working every day, especially the communication,” William said. “We want to keep our marital connection strong, and I hope we can attend another training event like this.”

That encouragement is important to the Pegasus Ministry Team, who plan to hold future Strong Bonds events.

“We hope to conduct this training at least once every quarter,” Webb said. “Marriage is one of the most dynamic relationships on Earth, and it has a multigenerational impact on our Army and our culture.”