Story by SrA Orlando Corpuz on 03/28/2019Take care of your relationships so that you can take care of the mission.
That was the underlying theme of a weekend retreat held March 22-24, where 25 Hawaii Air National Guard [HIANG] married couples gathered at a Waikiki hotel for a weekend of learning, bonding, and re-energizing.
The weekend workshop was part of the Strong Bonds initiative, a National Guard funded, Chaplain-led program whose core mission of increasing readiness through relationship education has been helping service members develop important relationship skills for close to two decades.
HIANG Chaplains, chaplain assistants and a cadre of volunteers led the couples through exercises, mentoring sessions, and hands-on activities - all with the singular goal of imparting relationship enhancing skills.
"Strong Bonds is important to the mission because what we're teaching couples and the airmen is to build resiliencyto build skills, and to have better, healthy marriages," said Lt. Col. Leah Boling, Chaplain, 154th Wing. "If our airmen and our families are healthy and they're happy, they'll be fit to fight."
Although a wide range of ranks were represented amongst the participants, from Senior Airman to Brigadier General, rank was generally invisible as all participants were encouraged to be open and honest with their partners and encourage each other.
"It's important that the participants feel comfortable and at ease," Boling said. "We want them to be able to open up and really focus on their partners and to support the other couples as needed. Part of that is to forget about rank for this weekend."
While a wide range of ranks were represented, so to was the range of years that couples had been married. One couple had been married close to 40 years while another had just recently tied the knot.
Senior Airman Benjamin Suiso, 154th Medical Group medic and his wife Pomaika'i, were wed just a month prior and have a nine-month old baby together. They took the time to recharge their batteries.
"This is the first time in a while that we've had quality time together as a couple," Suiso said. "We've been together for a while, but we still learned a lot about each other and how we can communicate better."
HIANG Strong Bonds events are held two to three times per year. This iteration involved married couples; other events can focus on the family or single airmen.
According to Boling, the Strong Bonds of today began as a relationship enhancing program at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. With high deployment tempos, officials there saw the need for a formal program to help deploying troops and their families increase their relationship resiliency. The program was accepted Army wide and has since been adopted by both the Army and Air National Guard.
"To spend one weekend from Friday evening to Sunday noon with the couples and they open up their lives to you, that's just a joy to me and a blessing," Boling said.
The HIANG's first Strong Bonds event was held in 2005.