NAVAL AIR STATION FORT WORTH JOINT RESERVE BASE, Texas --
When it comes to deployments, combat-readiness is at the top of the list.
Combatant commanders need personnel who have it. Supervisors push their troops to attain it. The deploying member finalizes their paperwork showing they are qualified, prepared and able to do their job. On paper, it appears they have everything needed to be combat ready.
But do they?
If there were problems at home before the Airman left, they may be deployed physically, but their head’s not in the game. Not everything — like the health of a member’s marriage — ends up on a deployment checklist.
“We received feedback from our deploying and re-deploying Tenth Air Force Reserve Citizen Airmen who felt marriage counseling would help with their resiliency and ensure mission readiness,” said Maj. Gen. Ronald Miller, 10 AF Commander. “Many of our Airmen left active duty or chose to serve in the Air Force Reserve to improve family life. We listened to their concerns and put forward this opportunity to ensure our Airmen are ready to provide power and vigilance."
The Numbered Air Force is broadening the scope of combat readiness by initiating its first couple’s retreat recently in Fort Worth, Texas. Ten couples from around the country came together for the weekend to focus on [marriage] resiliency and service before self [taking care of your spouse first] – one of the Air Force core values.
Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Mark McDaniel, 301st Fighter Wing head chaplain and the retreat’s facilitator, explains how relationship struggles can have an effect on military performance.
“During my 18-year tenure, the number one counseling issue the chaplain’s office deals with is marital relationships,” he said. “If the deployed member is stressed about what’s going on at home, it’s going to occupy their mind, so the purpose behind this is to try to help strengthen marriages so that we can be focused on the task and get the mission done.”
The retreat curriculum consisted primarily of the ‘Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage’ program by Mark Gungor. The two-day, four-session retreat included material used to help couples delve into deep topics focused on their marriage.
“The most significant part of the material used was the flag page,” McDaniel said. “It’s a self-assessment that each participant filled out before they arrived that not only helps them understand each other’s strengths but also what is important to their partner.”
Participant Senior Master Sgt. Brandon Koebbe, 301st Fighter Wing explosive ordnance disposal flight chief, learned a lot from the flag page.
“The flag page helped bolster our strengths and showed us our weaknesses,” he said. “The most valuable things we learned were our talents and traits. When times get tough as they sometimes do in marriages, this is going to help us communicate better and understand where we are each coming from. This retreat far exceeded our expectations.”
His wife, Stephanie, also shared her thoughts from this event.
“We definitely discovered our talents and learned we have a lot of things in common ... but we also learned good ways to work on the things where we don’t and ways to connect better with one another,” she said. “This helped us by pointing out any issues we can each work on individually to just make that connection.”
Another couple who attended the retreat is Staff Sgt. Jonathan Caban, a 920th Maintenance Squadron HC-130P/N King crew chief at Patrick Air Force Base, Fla., and his wife, Marieliz, were both happy they got the opportunity to participate in Fort Worth and hope this program continues on.
“I think that it’s a great idea and it should keep happening,” Jonathan said. “Traveling to a different location removes us from our comfort zones. It’s like we are deployed together and the only thing that is familiar is each other and that brings us closer together.”
Marieliz said that her piece of mind has grown because she learned to better understand how her husband’s mind works and is more prepared for the next deployment.
The success of this retreat will be measured with two follow-up surveys about the effectiveness of the event and its impact on quality of life and retention. At present, 10 AF plans on conducting two retreats each year. In addition to these events, several wings throughout 10 AF have implemented the same type of event for their local populations.
Redefining combat readiness to include marriage is proving to be a step in the right direction.
“In the end, the stability and strength of a person's marriage or intimate relationship has an immeasurable impact on a military member's comprehensive fitness - bolstering their physical, mental, social and spiritual pillars,” McDaniel said.