December 16, 2013
By Sgt. Bailey Kramer
TEMPLE, Texas - Due to military training, temporary duty assignments and deployments, married soldiers and their spouses can often spend more time apart than together, testing even the strongest of marriages.
To help soldiers from the Ironhorse Brigade's 1st "Dragon" Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment and the 115th "Muleskinner" Brigade Support Battalion reconnect with their spouses after months of extensive training exercises, soldiers and their spouses attended a marriage retreat Dec. 6 in Temple, Texas.
Capt. Kevin McCarty, the chaplain for the 2nd "Lancer" Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment of the Ironhorse Brigade, addressed the unique challenges the Army presents to married couples.
"(Ironhorse) couples have been separated by the field, and their soldiers are about to leave for (the National Training Center)," McCarty said.
Over coffee and croissants, he talked to the couples about the importance of trust, communication, love and commitment.
McCarty selected an English-speaking spouse from the group and began a conversation with her - in Spanish. He later used this to demonstrate some of the difficulties of communicating.
"If you don't talk to someone in a way they can understand, you might as well be talking in a different language," McCarty explained.
Using a drawing game to express the importance of effective communication, McCarty instructed spouses from each couple to attempt to draw a picture based on their significant others' description.
When finished, McCarty asked if the couples felt the exercise was difficult or easy. The majority found the exercise to be difficult.
"The (drawing game) was probably my favorite part of the event," said Cpl. Cody Lance, a cannon crew member assigned to Battery A of the Dragon Battalion. "We came hoping to learn how to better communicate, and I believe the (retreat) helped accomplish that."
Natasha Lance, Cody's wife of more than three years, said she also enjoyed the communication test and believes it will be easier to communicate with each other in the future.
"Many young couples don't know what right looks like when it comes to a relationship," said McCarty. "Then they are expected to make it last."
The drawing game wasn't the only event the couples participated in during the lesson.
McCarty tested the couples' knowledge of one another by separating the men from the women. He then handed each group a blank piece of paper and told each group to list 10 items they think their husbands want most.
Assuming what is important to others is different from what they think is important to them, McCarty said, explaining the purpose behind the game.
"I hope (the couples) leave here knowing how to reconcile both the little and big hurts that come up in their marriage," McCarty said.
Natasha said the event helped her realize problems aren't always Cody's fault; it takes both husband and wife to understand how to communicate and work with each other to make their relationship stronger.
Following the lessons, the group was allowed to enjoy bowling, laser tag and arcade games.
"We can never have too many marriage training events," McCarty said. "A healthier marriage makes a healthier Army: healthy lasts."