News: 11th Signal Brigade Strong Bonds
Story by Capt. Peter Bogart
FORT HOOD, Texas - Seventeen families from the 62nd Expeditionary Signal Battalion, 11th Signal Brigade, spent the weekend of Jan. 24–26 at the Lakeway Resort and Spa in Austin, Texas, as part of the unit’s Strong Bond program.
The retreat was a chance for couples to not just attend a relationship strengthening seminar but also a chance for them to unwind and have some fun.
Attendees voluntarily participated in a Strong Bonds offsite retreat format designed to maximize relationship training impact. The retreat or “getaway” provides an emotionally safe and secure training environment in which to address the effect of military lifestyle stressors.
Families arrived at Lakeway Resort on Friday afternoon and after checking in and having a buffet dinner were given an orientation to the weekend’s events.
“We don’t do PowerPoint, it’s a retreat,” said 11th Signal Brigade Maj. James Blount, chaplain. “Our goal is to get in some good relevant training and then let everyone go enjoy the resort and this beautiful weather.”
Saturday started with another buffet and then seminars on danger signs in marriage, speaker listener technique, and hidden expectations. Blount, who has been married for almost 33 years, related stories from his own marriage while leading the classes and group discussions.
Sgt. 1st Class Trampus Harmon attended the retreat with two of his children, his wife Tiffany is currently deployed. The couple have been regular attendees at Strong Bonds retreats since they first attended one in 2008 while stationed in Korea.
“We have a wonderful marriage and some of it is because of the things we learn during these retreats,” said Harmon. “These trips are one of the ways we have been able to stay connected.”
Harmon, who was on his eighth retreat, said that besides the Strong Bonds program reinforcing the strength of his marriage, the retreats are also a good way to be able to get away from the stresses of daily life and relax for a weekend.
Child care was provided during the seminars and the mandatory part of the training on Saturday was complete by lunch. Families had the rest of the day to enjoy the facilities at the resort.
Some couples took advantage of the hiking trails, some spent the afternoon in one of the three heated pools, some just took time to relax on their balconies and enjoy the scenic view of Lake Austin. A few motivated individuals made sure to hit up the resort gym in anticipation of another buffet dinner.
On Sunday morning, Blount led a voluntary worship service and then led workshops on forgiveness and commitment.
For Spc. John Serna, Company B, 62nd Signal Battalion, and his wife, Skye, this was their first retreat.
Serna said it was better than he had expected because he was anticipating much more formal training.
“It was awesome to get far away from work,” said Serna. “It is helpful to be able to forget all your other problems and focus just on us.”
The Sernas both said being at the resort for the weekend really helped them connect to the training and that the weekend was enjoyable and very helpful to their marriage. The Sernas, who have one child and are expecting another, said they definitely plan on attending the retreats in the future.
For more information on the next Strong Bonds Retreat, soldiers can contact their unit chaplain or chaplain’s assistant.