February 11, 2009

Single Soldiers learn valuable relationship skills

By Sgt. Jesse L. Houk
Virginia Guard Public Affairs

Single Soldier retreat

Capt. Ben J. Sprouse, chaplain for the 116th Brigade Combat Team, instructs Soldiers on five elements that make healthy relationships.  The "Singles Enrichment Retreat" is an Adjutant Gernaral's program that was put on by the chaplains corps. (Photo by Sgt. Jesse L. Houk, Virginia Guard Public Affairs.)

ARLINGTON, Va. — Thirteen Soldiers from around the commonwealth converged in Arlington, Va., Feb. 7 and 8 to participate in the "Singles Enrichment Retreat." 

“The Army, as a whole, has been pushing a number of programs and retreats to support Soldiers as human beings to make them stronger Soldiers in all aspects of their lives,” said Capt. Ben J. Sprouse, 116th Brigade Combat Team Chaplain. “As a part of that they have been introducing a number of curriculums for both married Soldiers and single Soldiers that can be implemented into regular training and weekend retreats.”

Improvements in Soldier support have been congressionally mandated and initiated by the Department of Defense. The single Soldier’s retreat is an Adjutant General program that came together with the help the chaplain’s corps and Military Family Life Consultants from the Joint Family Support Assistance Program.

“Weekends like this are extremely important for Soldiers because the information presented is excellent,” said Cindy J. Blevins, Military Family Life Consultant. “I think it’s a really good time for Soldiers to get together with other Soldiers and talk about things that are affecting them; positively or negatively. I think that the demands on Soldiers and their family are ever-increasing and the support for those Soldiers should be increasing as well.”

Single Soldier retreat

Pat Thorne, a military family life consultant, speaks to Soldiers about resources and assistance that is available to during the "Singles Enrichment Retreat." (Photo by Sgt. Jesse L. Houk, Virginia Guard Public Affairs.)

The curriculum that helped to equip the Soldiers with relationship skills centered on information that is presented in the book “How to Avoid Marrying a Jerk; The Foolproof Way to Follow Your Heart Without Losing Your Mind” by John Van Epp, Ph. D.

The teaching centered on the idea there are five categories in the development of a relationship that include knowing, trusting, relying, committing, and touching. According to Van Epp, a relationship develops best when each category grows at a gradual pace and never exceeds the growth rate of the previous category. This information is written with marriage in mind, but is applicable to any relationship.

“Soldiers in the guard are citizen-Soldiers,” said Sprouse. “If our Soldiers have unhealthy relationships on their citizen side it will reflect on their ability to be who they are on the Soldier side. You take care of the citizen and you take care of the Soldier; you have to take care of the whole person.”

“I definitely feel that this is a great way for commanders to invest in their Soldiers,” said Sgt. Brian G. James, a logistics specialist with 429th Brigade Support Battalion. “Just showing that they care enough about the Soldier’s welfare to send them and say ‘Hey, don’t worry about the weekend. We hope they are going to give you the foundation to build better relationships in your unit and your life.’ It shows that they value their Soldiers and know that we are here.”

Although this is only the second single Soldier retreat, with the first one taking place in August, there are plans to increase the frequency of the retreat. It is the goal of all departments involved to increase support to Soldiers, the awareness of the services offered and the availability to help Soldiers.

For more information on single Soldier retreats or marriage seminars, please contact the state chaplain’s office.

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