News: Relationship building program offered to deployed troops
Story by Sgt. Katherine Dowd
CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait - Soldiers of the 135th Expeditionary Sustainment Command’s chaplain section recently worked together to combine two relationship building programs into one that is available to all soldiers deployed to Camp Arifjan, Kuwait. The Army offers relationship building programs designed for both single soldiers and for married soldiers. At Camp Arifjan, however, the courses previously offered were only for single soldiers on deployment. Chaplain Melvin Tucker and Staff Sgt. Luke Bridgeman dedicated countless hours to opening this program to all soldiers here.
“The program offers important relationship advice and provides necessary resiliency time for soldiers,” Tucker said. “It helps soldiers’ mental fitness because it takes them out of their normal work environment and places them in a relaxed setting. It gives them a chance to learn and relax at the same time.” This is the first time that a relationship course has been offered to both single and married soldiers at Camp Arifjan.
The Relationship Enhancement Single Soldier Training (RESST) and Preventional and Relationship Enhancement Program (PREP) were the foundational building blocks for the new course that is designed to help build soldiers’ relationship and communication skills for current and future relationships.
Bridgeman, 135th ESC Chaplain’s assistant, coordinates the essential behind the scenes aspects that make the program run. He plans the operational side of the program such as arranging air and ground transportation, coordinating living quarters for the duration of the program, and ensuring participants have the correct packing list and travel orders. The RESST/PREP program takes place at Camp As Sayliyah in Qatar, so ensuring that travel and living accommodations are taken care of is essential to make the program run smoothly. He also assisted Tucker in piecing together essential aspects of both the RESST and PREP training materials to create a program that was useful for all attendees.
A deployment can overshadow the parts of everyday life that families and friends are still actively participating in at home. This training takes the soldier out of the workplace and puts them in a course that provides ideas for better communication, deeper understanding, and realistic expectations.
“The program takes place away from Arifjan so that soldiers can fully immerse themselves in the training without having to fight the temptation to still check on work,” said Bridgeman. “The change of scenery lets your brain shift gears; I believe that the location really helps the soldiers to learn.”
Tucker and Bridgeman also worked with Chaplain Rob Morris, Chaplain for the 143 Combat Sustainment Support Battalion out of Connecticut, to bring the two courses together. Although the focus was mainly on enhancing and building healthy personal relationships, many of the points that were made could be applied to all relationships. For example, the emphasis on communication skills can be used to help improve working relationships and friendships.
Morris, an Idaho native, taught the first class that incorporated both married and single soldiers. He is familiar with the programs used to teach relationship advice and said that he had to take a different approach this time.
“In programs like this one, I have to address the needs of the audience,” said Morris.
He said that developing healthy relationship skills is essential to all aspects of life—whether it be romantic, friendship, or work related.
“During deployments, soldiers can get into a rut and become disconnected with what is going on at home,” Morris said. “This program helps you look at yourself and keep you connected with yourself and others. The idea of preparing for small changes helps keep expectations realistic.”
Many of the techniques that were introduced to soldiers during this course can be applied to work relationships as well as personal relationships. For instance, Morris handed out personality tests during the training. Each soldier took one and separated into groups with their like personality type. They got to discuss their similarities and differences. The room was then opened to group discussion where each group got to explain themselves to the others.
“Personality tests like this help leaders identify strengths and weaknesses of their soldiers as well as improve communication during relationships,” Morris pointed out. “This, as well as many of the skills identified and taught in this workshop, are applicable across the board.”
“These programs are a chance to give Soldiers another tool in the toolbox to get through their days,” Bridgeman said. “It opens soldiers’ eyes to the essential need to communicate back home. It helps us manage both relationships here and home, just a little bit better.”
For more information about this program contact your Unit Ministry Team or Chaplain.