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Fort Bragg Program Hopes Helping Marriages Will Help Army

Posted August 4, 2001

— Military leaders fear a 40 percent divorce rate among Army couples could weaken the force. That is why Fort Bragg is one of a few posts offering a program to help married couples stay together. It could become a model used Army-wide.

"You know, in a healthy relationship it is very important to be able to express what you want," a military instructor tells a room full of Army couples.

Welcome to the Army's softer side, the one that recognizes that military readiness often depends on marital bliss.

"Healthy couples are going to have their times of disagreements, so just be honest about what you want and what your desires are," the instructor emphasizes.

The course is called Building Strong and Ready Families. The program teaches communication skills and problem solving, among other things.

The program has two other levels which offer medical screening for military families and a weekend retreat for Army couples.

Sal and Valerie Hernandez wanted to get their marriage off on the right foot and were eager to take advantage of this type of military training.

"We've only been married 10 months So there's a lot to learn. A lack of communication in your marriage can pretty much destroy it," said Sal Hernandez.

Marriage counseling is the kind of thing unit ministry teams normally do to help soldiers and their families But this pilot program is going one step further, offering points toward promotion for soldiers who participate.

"There's four promotion points for 40 hours of the training here. There's also the added incentive for having a better family life," said Rev. Jeff Watters.

For military couples, their committment to each other is often challenged by their committment to country.

"Marriage is difficult because of all the deployments and the extra duty being in the military," said Valerie Hernandez.

"And constantly being separated is difficult," added her husband.

The transition soldiers face when work ends and home begins magnifies the challenge.

"At work you got to be a little fast-paced, but when you get home you want to slow it down, take your time," said soldier Jonathan Perkins.

"These programs help stop the train and help married couples focus on couples, focus on communication, and focus on relationships," said Watters.

And the hope is that stronger relationships may mean a stronger Army.


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