FORT BRAGG, N.C. –
The Strong Bonds program has always been about strengthening Army Families, but new funding and policy changes have given the Unit Ministry Teams (UMT) of the U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command (Airborne) the means to provide more flexibility, personal instruction, and choice at the unit level.
Under new revisions to the Strong Bonds program from U.S. Army Reserve Command, management has come home to the USACAPOC(A) level, replacing the previous administration system by Readiness Divisions, more regional organizations.
Since it started in 1999, Strong Bonds events have been attended by active duty, National Guard, and Army Reserve Soldiers and Families. In 2010, according to the Strong Bonds web page, the Army completed year three of a five year study showing a 50% lower rate in divorce, and a substantial increase in stronger marital relationships among Strong Bonds participants.
“The mission of the USACAPOC(A) Strong Bonds program is for our Unit Ministry Teams to provide in-person or virtual resiliency training events for Commanders in order to strengthen our Soldier and their Families,” said Maj. Joshua A. Cox, USACAPOC(A) deputy command chaplain, and administrator for the USACAPOC(A) Strong Bonds Program.
The program is a chaplain led training event to build Soldier and Family resiliency through relationship instruction. A commanders program, driven by the UMT, where they are able to design their Strong Bonds program, tailor fitting it for the unique structure, climate, and culture of the unit.
“The recent changes to Strong Bonds has transferred ownership from the Readiness Divisions down to USACAPOC(A) in a strategic move to refocus on chaplains leading events at the unit level,” said Cox. “In years prior all Strong Bonds event requests from either USACAPOC(A) or any other Functional Command were approved and facilitated at the Readiness Divisions.”
“The Readiness Division was in essence the manager, however, USACAPOC(A) now has direct ownership over unit centered Strong Bonds training events,” said Cox.
This new local control gives USACAPOC(A) the ability to focus on Resilience training for Soldiers and Families in a new way that tailors more closely to the Soldier-Family level.
“With these new policy changes, unit commanders and their UMTs can determine the scope of their Strong Bonds event and then execute it per the Strong Bonds OPORD with the allocated funds executed through the unit and the unit Government Purchase Card (GPC) holders,” said Cox.
“There is much more freedom to meet the demand with a narrower focus on the most important element-the Families.”
“The funds can support Strong Bonds events held by the unit UMT, independently or in conjunction with unit driven events such as BTAs, ATs, Family Days, etc.,” said Cox, “and after the Strong Bonds training is completed, the unit training NCO’s will be able to update Strong Bonds training in DTMS.”
This means that USACAPOC(A) UMT’s will lead training for the unit they represent, fitting the schedule and curriculum to be more effective and responsive to the training audience.
“This change to the Strong Bonds structure will enhance the spiritual and moral fitness of each unit with flexible and customized events which can vary in venue, time and scope,” said Cox.
“USACAPOC(A) can now directly assist our unit commanders and UMTs from start to finish to completely adapt and execute their Strong Bonds training events,” continued Cox.
“The Readiness Divisions in past years were exceptional to work with! They planned and executed the weekend type Strong Bonds events that some of our Soldiers and their Families were able to attend,” said Cox.
“However, the focus has shifted to providing more unit level Strong Bonds events,” continued Cox, “and who better to assist our units than the command itself.”
Strong Bonds training is about taking care of the bond between Soldiers and their Families, and the strength of the program being under more local control is the flexibility of choice for training platforms.
“Every one of our USACAPOC(A) UMTs along with their commanders should be considering courses of action for how they want their SB event to look,” said Cox.
“If the commander and the UMT choose to offer a virtual or in-person resiliency program based on the needs of the unit, then they now have those options available,” said Cox. “Say the commander and chaplain want to offer virtual financial resiliency to their unit and they agree on a popular program like Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University, then this program offers that flexibility.”
“The time they choose to execute the training and the scope of the training material they choose is flexible in an effort to meet the moral, ethical, and spiritual needs of our Soldiers and their Families,” continued Cox.
The importance of the Strong Bonds events is that it offers a platform to provide information and education without distractions.
“First of all, there is a bit of a stereotype for our Soldiers and their Families that attending a Strong Bonds event is admitting you have a problem, you’re admitting defeat and this is a ‘last resort’ to fix that problem,” said Cox, “this is not the case!”
“Attending and participating in a SB TNG event simply allows you to the opportunity to use some new tools to improve your situation, whatever that current situation is," said Cox.
The resources and training at Strong Bonds are flexible and the curriculum is designed to improve on and strengthen any level of resilience.
“The UMT cannot fix a relationship in a weekend, but what they can do is give you tools to make it better,” said Cox, “if your relationship is in a good place, we want to help you make it even better.”
“Our UMTs who lead these training events are some of the best, and they have dedicated themselves and their careers to taking care of Soldiers and their Families through helping them grow - no matter what stage of life or what their situation,” stated Cox.
The USACAPOC(A) Strong Bonds program is available for any unit in the USACAPOC(A) footprint.
For more information, contact your Unit Ministry Team, or ask your chain of command. If you would like to conduct a SB event and your unit doesn’t have a UMT, contact USACAPOC(A) Deputy Command Chaplain, Maj. Joshua A. Cox, at (910) 432-2007, or USACAPOC(A) Religious Affairs Specialist, Staff Sgt. Monika Patterson at email@example.com.