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NEWS | April 2, 2015

Program helps couples strengthen communication, relationships

By By John Redfield, U.S. Central Command Public Affairs

MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla., April 2, 2015 - The challenges, sacrifices and hardships of military life often lead to stress, and that stress can strain personal relationships. So the military emphasizes taking care of its people, who in turn will take care of the mission.

One means of supporting families and promoting well-being is a program recently undertaken by the U.S. Central Command Command Chaplain Directorate.

Called "Oxygen for Your Relationships," the workshops focus on offering couples strategies to work through their issues, gain a better understanding of each other's needs, learn tools to resolve conflict, learn ideas to rekindle romance and develop an action plan for their relationship.

Two CENTCOM team members - Cortney and Willie Watkins - attended a local workshop in the fall when they were engaged and have since married. "We learned that we don't think the same way, and we have to work on respecting each other's thoughts," the two said in a newsletter by Stronger Families, the organization that develops the materials used in the workshops by local facilitators. After attending the workshop, "we are more aware of negative things that trigger our partner and are more open to seeing each other's point of view. We learned how to listen to each other, relate to how the other is feeling, and understand what each other is trying to communicate."

"Oxygen for Your Relationships" seminars have been held locally in November, December and most recently March 27. At each all-day workshop, about 20 military-connected couples attend the interactive training, which includes one-on-one discussions between couples, recorded presentations, and speakers facilitating group discussion. Child care, food and course materials are all provided free to participants, paid for by a grant from the United Service Organizations, or USO.

In addition to CENTCOM's command chaplain directorate, others assist in facilitating the workshops, including the U.S. Special Operations Command Central chaplain; the 6th Air Mobility Wing Chaplain's Office; and MacDill Air Force Base's military and family life counselors.

Chaplain (Col.) Jim Driscoll, the CENTCOM deputy command chaplain, has been part of the three workshops so far, and he said that future seminars are being planned, but dates have not yet been set. Once they are, information will be sent through CENTCOM channels.