CRESTVIEW — When 1st Lt. Brent Wadas is next deployed overseas with the 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne), his mind will be totally focused on his mission.
Wadas said he, his wife and two daughters strengthened their family dynamics during a recent Special Forces "Strong Bonds" program, freeing the soldier to concentrate on his job.
Each member of the family is now better equipped to remain strong and loving when Wadas is deployed, and better prepared to resume their relationships when he transitions home, he said.
Part of the Crestview family's strength comes from newly learned skills in interpreting each other's "love language."
The Feb. 14-17 retreat, conducted by 7th Special Forces chaplain Capt. Todd Ramey at Sandestin Resort, centered on Dr. Gary Chapman's "Love Languages" books. Twenty soldiers and their families participated.
"The curriculum and teaching we were using was geared toward relationships between spouses and building relationships between families," Ramey said.
"This Strong Bonds program helped soldiers and spouses ... understand how to thrive in their marriages and resolve problems," said group spokesman Capt. Thomas Cieslak, an Auburn resident who participated in the program with his family.
While parents were in adults-only seminars or attending a Valentine's Day "date night," their children were in a childcare program geared specifically to military dependents.
Family activities included games on the beach, meals and a church service. Wadas said his daughters liked the childcare program so much, "they were upset when we had to pull them out to go to the beach!"
The bonding opportunity was particularly meaningful, he said.
"With a teenage daughter and another verging on the edge of 'tween' status, it was important to me to make sure I’m ahead of the game when it comes to being a good husband and father," Wadas said.
Making the most of time together
"One thing we've seen in the Army is being more intentional in helping soldiers build relationships in their families, and it makes them more resilient when they have to face the challenges of being separated," Ramey said.
Separations can last up to a year or more, which can be especially hard on soldiers' children, he said.
"They're used to having one parent, and now they have two again," Ramey said. "When the spouse is gone for six or 12 months, just coming home is a big transition."
Returning soldiers sometimes have just a few months back home before they start preparing for the next deployment, Ramey said.
"When you do have time with your family, this training is important because it helps them make the most of that time," Ramey said.
What are 'Love Languages'?
Dr. Gary Chapman's "The 5 Love Languages" states that each partner in a relationship predominantly shows love toward the other in one of these ways:
• Using words to affirm other people
• Through acts of service
• Giving gifts
• Spending quality time
• Though physical touch
Chapman adapted his book into several special editions for military service members, singles, children, teens and men.