Couples spend quality time at retreat Published Sept. 4, 2008 By Staff Sgt. Christopher Marasky 18th Wing Public Affairs KADENA AB, Japan -- Three days of beautiful beaches and cool relaxing breezes are one way to help married couples deal with the stresses of upcoming deployments. That's the thought behind the Marriage Enrichment Retreat that was held at Okuma resort last week, an event sponsored by the 18th Wing Chaplain's office. "This last year we had an opportunity to get a grant from the chief of chaplains in Washington D.C., and the question went out that asked 'If you had this money, what would you do with it?,'" said Chaplain Eric Whitmore, 18th Wing chaplain. "So we sent out a couple of grant requests, and one of them was for marriage programs, specifically for those heading out to or coming back from a deployment." The program falls in line with the new "Warrior Care" programs that the Air Force Chaplain Corps started this year. The grant allotted the Kadena chaplains $10,000 for the marriage enrichment retreat program. Last week's retreat was the second held this year. With the money, the chaplains provided lodging and food expenses for ten couples to visit Okuma for three days. During the three-day stay, the couples participated in classes that explained helpful tools for a successful marriage such as communication techniques, how to "fight fair," and how to improve listening skills. Squadron and group leadership, seeing the value of this retreat to their members, also got involved. Leaders provided three day passes for individuals to attend the retreat said Chaplain Whitmore. Beyond helping to provide skill sets for the couples, the goal of the retreat is to simply give the couples the time they need alone together. "The biggest thing is that they take away the idea that they can make time for each other," said Chaplain Whitmore. "We tell couples they need to make time for each other, doing things like having dates with just each other and without the rest of the family." The opportunity to get away from the busy schedule of Kadena was well-appreciated said Senior Airman David Hootman, an 18th Logistic Readiness Squadron vehicle driver, who attended the retreat with his wife and four-month-old daughter. "It was very useful and well organized as far as the session lengths and how much free time we got with our family members," he said. "It wasn't just seminars, and we got a lot of genuine quality time together before my deployment, and I appreciated that." The chaplains are quick to point out that the purpose of the retreat program is not marriage counseling but rather it's a venue designed to help couples relax and reconnect before or after a deployment. "We did some interviews to begin with, just to ensure that we weren't getting couples with real marriage problems, because this isn't the correct venue to help them," said Chaplain Whitmore. "In those cases, we would direct them to marriage counselors." Providing members that chance and perhaps better tools for their relationships is what it's all about said Chaplain Whitmore. "If one couple takes one thing away from one of those classes," he said, "I've done my job and I can sleep at night knowing that there was one couple I was able to share with and they're going to be better now because of something we helped them with."