SQUAW CREEK, Calif. --
Wing Chaplain, Maj. Donny Crandell assigned to the 152nd Airlift Wing, heads up the Strong Bonds Marriage Retreat each year with the help of the Chapel Staff and Airman & Family Program Manager, Fred Barton. This year the retreat had 25 couples in attendance from June 11-13 at the Resort at Squaw Creek, Calif.
Nestled away in the beautiful Sierra Nevada, surrounded by conifer trees, local fauna, and beautiful landscape— the Resort at Squaw Creek is a great place to escape and unplug from arduous military life. According to their website, “A luxury California resort in an idyllic mountain setting, Resort at Squaw Creek rests at the base of Squaw Valley, which is the site of the 1960 Winter Olympics, and is just minutes from North Lake Tahoe.”
Military couples are faced with long work days, weekend work and deployments. This can take a toll on a marriage, as one spouse is left caring for the kids, house, cars and life outside of the military. For dual-military couples, this is multiplied, as they must have a strong support network to help manage their home life and remain resilient.
“My wife and I look forward to the Strong Bonds events that are offered,” Chief Master Sgt. Kevin Brun, who also attended the conference with his wife said, “This weekend was truly amazing as there was beautiful weather, a nice resort and fantastic food along with the camaraderie of the other couples. I think it is one of the best tools we have to help develop resilience in both the Airmen and the families. We believe that there is always something to take away from these experiences whether it is a new skill or a conversation with another couple who we see in a different setting from the base. Being able to share how we have navigated through our lives and across the military landscape with others is how we can increase the human element of our relationships. We will always sign up as long as there is room for us, but I would always want a new couple to go and be exposed to this opportunity.”
The Strong Bonds Marriage Retreat is designed to give those couples tools to communicate, manage expectations, stay resilient and keep continued commitment for their marriage.
“Since the Wing Chaplain runs the event, some people miss out on a great opportunity—because they think the event is religion or Christ-centric,” said Crandell. “The event has very little religious focus—we do a hybrid of various relationship tools, to include, Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage, Prep 8.0 Relationship Intelligence for Couples, and the Five Love Languages. Sure, there is a devotional time before each day starts, but that’s optional. This event helps couples re-connect, communicate and spend some quality alone-time together focusing on their relationship.”
Couples who attended were provided exquisite meals, educational sessions, and plenty of relaxation time.
Attendees had time to enjoy the resort—whether that included golfing, bike riding, hiking, and swimming or soaking in any of the several hot tubs. There are nature trails, mountain biking, scenic bike paths and fly fishing opportunities.
“The experience was great!” 152nd Logistics Readiness Squadron Commander, Lt. Col. Jenelle Kimsey said. “We haven’t had a lot of free time since COVID started with how busy my schedule has been. It was nice to get away to a beautiful resort, and not have to worry about kids or anything else. Having the meals included and a regular schedule also gave us one-on-one time, which we don’t have too often. It was also great to be with other Guard members, a number of which I had never had the opportunity to meet their spouses.”
The relationship tools presented have a variety of approaches.
The PREP 8.0, “Relationship Intelligence for Couples” presented topics such as Expectations and Commitment. The material taught that expectations play a powerful role in the lives of intimate relationships and commitment is the glue that holds us together through the inevitable ups and downs of life.
Each couple had an opportunity to take quizzes to determine their primary Love Language. An excerpt from the 5 Love Languages® website: “The most common issue in any relationship is the communication barrier. Everyone experiences love differently, and it’s easy to miss the mark when it comes to showing that you care. With a little help from The 5 Love Languages®, you can learn to identify the root of your conflicts, give and receive love in more meaningful ways, and grow closer than ever. Your Love Language profile will explain your primary love language, what it means, and how you can use it to connect to others.”
Kimsey said, “I learned that my Love Language has changed since I last did this 10 years ago. I feel that I have adapted to my surroundings, and have different priorities than I used to. I also learned that I need to focus on myself and my spouse as much as I focus on helping other people. It is very easy to get lost in the day-to-day shuffle.”
The Chaplain also hosted a Strong Bonds Marriage retreat in Las Vegas the weekend of June 25-27 for those members that live in the southern-half of the state. The next marriage retreat in the northern part of Nevada is set for next year. There will be some base-sponsored “Date Nights” later in the year. For additional information, contact Ch. Crandell at firstname.lastname@example.org.