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Md. Guard members and families enhance relationships during retreat

By Maj. Ben Hughes

PERRYVILLE, Md. – The Maryland National Guard chaplains hosted a retreat for Soldiers, Airmen, and their families at the Great Wolf Lodge in Cecil County, Aug. 18-20, 2023.

Guard members and their families enjoyed the water park facilities while also working on their relationships with their significant others during the Building Strong and Ready Teams event, also known as “Strong Bonds.”

Maryland Army National Guard Lt. Col. Lonny Wortham, the MDNG state chaplain, was the facilitator for the retreat, which focused on enhancing relationships by building trust and allowing couples to reconnect with each other and their kids in a non-military environment.

“This weekend was really just a kind of a booster shot for couples to help them get to a better place,” said Wortham. “The goal is to take incremental steps to strengthen a relationship and building, restoring, healing trust is a great way to do that.”

Wortham utilized The Speed of Trust For Strong Marriages curriculum to help couples practice a new language and a set of behaviors to increase trust with loved ones through activities, group discussions, and personal reflections.

“The [curriculum] really is refreshing because it was a new approach,” said Maryland Army National Guard Sgt. Nikolai Sumibcay, an admin noncommissioned officer with the 629th Expeditionary Military Intelligence Battalion. “The questionnaires and the vignettes are very digestible since they were concise and short. And that’s what made it really good for me and my family.”

The joint event between the Maryland Air and Army Guard brought together Soldiers and Airmen of all ranks. Even though it was organized by the chaplains, it was not a religious event so anyone could feel welcome, according to Wortham.

He also said for Guard members to be “force multipliers,” things at home need to be going well.

“Strong units are made up of healthy Soldiers. Healthy Soldiers that are in healthy relationships are more effective,” said Wortham. “It starts with the family. So, I think we’re having an impact beyond the military, I think we’re having an impact in our communities, and ultimately, our country.”

The weekend retreat was free to the families including childcare while the parents were practicing their new skills. Even without the water park, Guard members working on improving their most critical relationships was worth it.

“Please take the time to really evaluate yourself, your marriage, and then sign up for this program because it will only enhance it,” said Sumibcay. “Your marriage will only go upward and forward.”

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