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    Stronger together with Strong Bonds



    Story by Staff Sgt. Javier Alvarez 

    163d Attack Wing

    The divorce rate in the United States has hovered at fifty percent for the past forty years, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. While trends have seen the rate drop in recent years, stressors that lead couples to go their separate ways are prevalent among the military population.
    Enter the Strong Bonds program at the 163d Attack Wing.
    During the past nine years, the 163d ATKW chaplain corps have hosted strong bonds events for individual, couples, and family units, said U.S. Air Force Maj. Shannon Dong, 163d ATKW chaplain. On average 25 couples or 40 single Airmen participate in a weekend retreat designed to strengthen relationships, inspire hope and rekindle marriages.
    “People are go, go, go,” said Dong. “Between school, work and drill, the time you really get to think about the important relationships in your life is when you’re navigating from point A to point B. Having this opportunity, I think is really amazing because self-reflection time is key to reestablishing where you want to be.”
    Strong Bonds was originally designed by the U.S. Army, who in 1997 saw the need for a family support programs among their ranks. About 90 couples participated during the programs premier year. Interest and program success ballooned those numbers to hundreds of thousands of servicemembers and their families participating annually across all services.
    “We got married at the schoolhouse at Wichita Falls,” said Staff Sgt. Samuel, 163d Maintenance Operation Center maintenance aircraft production controller. “We talked about getting married and we did. At the time she was in California and I was in Texas. So off the bat there were challenges.”
    Twice a year, between April and June, participants can be found at premier tourist destinations in Southern California participating in one of the four strong bonds curricula.
    “It’s taught me what I need to realign [so I can be there] for her,” said Samuel. “[Strong Bonds] puts tools in your toolbox. It helps you learn that perspective is everything. Initially in my marriage, I felt like I was doing things the wrong way. But that was the mindset I was in. I had to step back and look at situations from a different point of view, her point of view. It’s about being intentional.”
    The 163d ATKW Strong Bonds program is hosted by the chaplain corps with funding by the National Guard Bureau, said Dong. The event is not faith based and all members of the 163d ATKW are encouraged to participate.
    Word of mouth, and posted flyers is typically how the program events are advertised, but people can contact the 163d ATKW chaplain office for more information.
    “[My favorite thing about strong bonds is] seeing the couples reconnect,” said Dong. “Sometimes couples do come in and they’re not sure what to expect from the weekend but by the end because they had a chance to talk to each other and connect with each other you begin to see them sit closer to each other out their arms around each other. I’m sure maybe they probably would have done that prior but just to see how they grow more comfortable being in that setting.”



    Date Taken: 08.08.2021
    Date Posted: 08.09.2021 12:24
    Story ID: 402583

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