Air National Guard families spend weekend building Strong Bonds

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Lealan Buehrer
  • 182nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Fourteen Illinois Air National Guard families converged on a Wisconsin hotel and waterpark lodge on a mission: To join forces for the weekend to strengthen their family bonds by learning “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families”.

Chaplains and chaplain assistants from the 182nd Airlift Wing and 183rd Wing led the families through the program, which included lessons, practical exercises and time for family bonding.

“What we accomplished was helping families have resources to be able to find ways of strengthening their family life,” said Chaplain (Capt.) Jon Bormann, a chaplain with the 183rd Wing who helped teach the program. “Essentially, we laid out the groundwork, and everybody participated well and grabbed hold of what was being offered. And now they’re equipped to go back home and continue to take the tools that they have, the resources, and just expand upon them.”

Endorsed and funded by the National Guard Bureau, the chaplain-led Strong Bonds program seeks to bring the families together to learn and grow. The payoff is a win-win. Stronger military families make for better resiliency and readiness, so the Air Force wants taking care of Airmen and their families to be a top priority.

“It’s essential that we continue to set aside time to support and strengthen families so that they have the tools necessary to be able to cope when the inevitable adversity that we face as Guard members, as traditional Guardsmen, comes our way,” said Bormann.

Staff Sgt. Evan Fleming, an operations intelligence craftsman with the 182nd Operations Support Squadron, said that the tools they learned — such as love languages and active listening — were skills he and his wife wanted to instill on their three children.

“It was good to have everybody involved and the whole family thought of all the time,” he said. “Both my wife and I really appreciated the tools that were either given or recommended, to either go read or research, to then continue working on these things at home.”

Fleming also said it was awesome to not only “get a chance to connect with my family, but for them to get to see this is Guard thing. This is the Guard taking care of the family. So, for my family to see that was huge. And we definitely had some memories made.”

The weekend culminated in each family creating their own mission statement to help remind them of their discovered values and goals.

“Our goal was to equip families to make a mission statement together, so that everyone in the family could clearly identify the values and principles unique to their desired family culture,” said Chaplain (Capt.) Daniel Wilton, a chaplain with the 182nd Airlift Wing, who also helped teach. “Mission statements provide direction and purpose so families know what they’re striving after together. Instead of only reacting to life, families can choose to be proactive and pursue healthy relationships by keeping their first things first.”

The families that came together represented all three Illinois Air National Guard wings: Shiloh’s 126th Air Refueling Wing, Peoria’s 182nd Airlift Wing and Springfield’s 183rd Wing.

“I think this weekend having 14 families was just a testimony to, like, ‘Hey, we’re part of one Guard family, and we can be a support to one another,’” said Wilton.

Bormann said that Illinois is making a big push to have more Strong Bonds events for its military families.

“It’s important to make those connections and really put those roots down deep, so that we have the systems of support in place available when the time comes and we need them,” he said.

More information and opportunities on the Strong Bonds program is available at local Chaplain Corps offices, as well as at