By Pfc. Jennifer L. Lowes
CONTINGENCY OPERATING SITE MAREZ, Iraq — Soldiers in the 1st Engineer Battalion, 779th Engineer Battalion and the Headquarters Company of the 130th Engineer Brigade, traveled from Contingency Operating Site Marez, Iraq, to Contingency Operating Base Speicher's Freedom Rest Center March 18, for a four-day married and singles retreat. The retreat was led by 130th Eng. Bde. Lt. Col. John Molina, chaplain, 779th Eng. Bn. Capt. Jeff Peppers, chaplain, and 1st Eng. Bn. Capt. Jason Hill, chaplain.
The retreat was split into two sections, married or single. Classes were held for around four hours a day. The married Soldiers focused on improving their marriages, and relationships, while single Soldier courses offered advice on picking a good partner, and healthy ways of dating. Soldiers took the rest of the day to enjoy the luxuries of the Freedom Rest Center. The COB Speicher Freedom Rest Center is a compound where Soldiers can relax, wear their civilian clothing, have access to movies, books, internet and phones. The married and singles retreat was held at Freedom Rest so Soldiers could relax as well as learn, said Molina.
"For Soldiers, this was a breather and a chance to challenge their interpersonal skills. Soldiers got some good, useful training, and some well deserved time off," said Molina.
When classes finished for the day many Soldiers still had questions about the material covered, said Molina. Discussions about what was being said in class continued through dinner and even into the early morning hours, he added. Every Soldier took something different away from the retreat.
"The food was the best part, after being in Iraq for ten months you'd be surprised how awesome it was just to have a good burger," said Spc. Michael Hiebert with the 130th Eng.Bde.
"Meeting new people in a different setting was nice too. Working with the same people every day can be a little mundane. I wish we could have had more time there," he added.
Soldiers were allowed to choose for themselves which classes they would like to participate in. Spc. Brittany Spiering, a married Soldier in the 779th Eng. Bn. decided to participate in the singles classes. Spiering said she took the single class to be with her comrades.
"Not everything applied to me because I'm already married, but I still learned a lot. I learned how to keep working on my existing relationship and how to work towards making things equal between me and my husband. We are doing well though and haven't had any problems since I've deployed," said Spiering.
Whether it was for self-improvement, relationship improvement or just some much needed relaxation, Soldiers on the retreat said they were happy with the way it turned out. Soldiers who participated in the retreat returned to COS Speicher refreshed and in high spirits.