Army’s Focus On Families

May 16, 2007

The Army has recognized the impact that frequent deployments have on families, especially when those deployments are to dangerous places such as Iraq and Afghanistan. You might be interested in knowing what the Army is doing to focus on family members. For starters, US Army Chief of Staff General George Casey is currently making a tour of bases in the US and speaking with families. Casey says this has given him even deeper insight into the burden that is being carried by family members. According to Casey, their needs have grown as soldiers are leaving for second and third or even more tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“We need to do even more than we have in the past for families,” he said. “They are carrying a burden here that is, frankly, more than I would have thought. Families tell us that we generally have the right programs, but we need to fund them evenly across the spectrum,” he said. “Then we need to standardize the services across the installations. They do tell me it’s hard on the families, he said.”

Let’s look at the types of programs that the Army has available to assist family members, while their soldier is deployed, as well as when their soldier is at home. The programs are actually many. Some bases, however, due to their size, may not have as much financially available to use towards these programs that the larger bases do. Others run into situations where they offer programs to family members and they have little or no participation (I’ve seen this a lot, where programs are available and would be very helpful for family members, yet instead of participating, some family members are isolating themselves, even after they’re reached out to by Army and Unit personnel).

I’m going to highlight one program that is currently active in the US Army and has been since 1997. That program, the Strong Bonds program is a unit-based chaplain-led program that helps Soldiers and their families build stronger relationships. The mission of the program is to build Soldier readiness by providing them with skills they can use to strengthen their marriage and other relationships. There are 4 sub-programs to Strong Bonds.
- Single soldier program, which aids single soldiers in making wise choices and building life-long relationships.
- Couple program, which helps married soldiers in enhancing and strengthening their marriage.
- Family program, which helps couples with children learn to stay close in their family unit and teaches the parents skills
to be better parents.
- Deployment and Redeployment program, which helps single soldiers, married soldiers and their families cope with the
stressors that deployments and redeployments bring.

The Army’s position on why they feel that programs such as this are important is:
Healthy marriages contribute to a healthy Army, in turn securing the future force. With increasing demands placed on Army families and Soldiers, including frequent deployments and relocations, intimate relationships are tested and many marriages end in divorce. Research shows that training in communication, intimacy and conflict management increases marriage satisfaction and reduces rates of family violence.

In addition, about 30 % of first-term Soldiers drop out of the Army. It is believed that this drop out rate could be significantly reduced if the Soldier had strong support from his or her family and loved ones. Frequent deployments and reunions present an even greater challenge to families who may or may not have the coping skills to address such stresses.


Strong Bonds


7 Responses to “Army’s Focus On Families”

  1. David M on May 16th, 2007 9:25 am
  2. GSO on September 17th, 2007 10:15 am

    What programs are available for couples when one spouse is deployed, and their marriage needs help? A year is a long time for the spouse at home to wait to work on marriage counseling.

  3. Terri on September 17th, 2007 11:07 am

    There are many different programs on military bases. My suggestion is to check with Army Community Services and find out what your individual base offers. There are classes available such as stress and anger management, relationship enhancement, individual and couples counseling.

    Often times when there is trouble in a relationship, it’s helpful for both parties to take part in individual counseling prior to working on the joint counseling. The chaplains on post offer this, as well as the mental health professionals. Military family members are also elgible to call Military One Source, which pays for up to 6 sessions with a provider off post, in the community.

  4. ChrisG on September 17th, 2007 11:13 am


    There are quite a few I know of for the Army. I am sure other services have programs also, but I am in the Army.

    On post there are Army Family Team Building (AFTB) services. The Chaplains are also marriage counselors. The base hospital (or where ever social services is located) has family advocacy/family needs counselors.

    Lastly is militaryonesource. This used to be armymonesource, but has expanded. This site allows access to various programs and referrals.

    I hope this helps.

  5. Terri on September 17th, 2007 11:36 am

    Another thing that we just recently got here at Fort Hood, which is now Army wide is the Military Life Consultants. Their services are short-terms needs based services. There’s a lot of agencies on and off post that offer assistance. If you’re not sure what is available on your installation, contact any of the services Chris and I have listed above and they should be able to help you or refer you to someone who can.

  6. GSO on September 18th, 2007 11:17 am

    Thanks for the feedback. I guess I wasn’t clear — I am talking about National Guard troops who are deployed. I was wondering if there are services available for counseling while the soldiers are deployed overseas, not when they are at home. I read an article on e-mail marriage therapy for couples with one member at home and one member deployed overseas, but couldn’t find additional information.

  7. Terri on September 18th, 2007 12:41 pm

    I’m really not sure GSO. I would suggest checking with your closest base. The services are available to Active Duty, National Guard and Reserve, but most of those services are only on the bases. Perhaps check with Military One Source and they may be able to offer more information. I’ve never heard of the email therapy and not something that I would trust to be very effective. Having worked in the counseling field in the past, I don’t think think it would be very effective. It would be way too easy for a person to “type” what they felt the other people wanted to read, without much concern for repercussion if they did so.

    The thing is, even with a spouse deployed, both parties can seek individual sessions where they’re at as many times, by working first individually, things work much better when you come together in joint sessions. It would definitely be worth checking in to.

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