Soldiers reinforce vital skills, build stronger bonds

by Spc. David Huddleston
18th Engineer Brigade Public Affairs, 21st Theater Sustainment Command

GARMISCH, Germany — Three days away from work to reinforce communication and relationship skills is what Soldiers and families of the 21st Theater Sustainment Command’s 18th Engineer Brigade experienced at the Edelweiss Lodge and Resort, a Department of Defense-owned recreation hotel here, Jan. 15 to 17.

The brigade’s unit ministry team held Strong Bonds retreats for single Soldiers of the 54th Engineer Battalion and Brigade Headquarters and a marriage retreat for the 54th Engineer Battalion.

“Each retreat provides six hours of training as well as six hours where the Soldiers, couples and families are supposed to take what they learn and apply it,” said Chaplain (Maj.) Dean Akers, 18th Eng. Bde. chaplain. “Child care is provided to allow adequate time for training and application of skills being learned.”

Pfc. Payne Bravo, a utilities repairer who attended the single Soldiers retreat, said the training was good.

“Chaplain Glenn and Chaplain Akers hit everything right on the spot. It was like they knew everything about us,” he said.

“The chaplain touched on everyone’s learning style, because it was visual, auditory and interactive. Just like a typical good classroom teacher, he incorporated every way of learning to keep us all engaged,” said Taylor Bowers, wife of Sgt. Brent Bowers, a signal NCO who attended of the 54th Eng. Bn. marriage retreat.

Akers said the most important thing was the interaction among the participants.

“Many times, the participants can do much of the teaching by their life experiences,” Akers said.

And Spc. Anthony Ramon, a combat engineer with the 54th Eng. Bn., said the retreat was much needed.

“I feel like the training is going to help to enhance our relationship,” he said.

In addition to providing applicable skills training, these Strong Bonds retreats allowed adequate time for travel, relaxation, recreation and fellowship.

“The location is nice and convenient. There are lots of recreational activities around,” said Ramon’s wife, Miryah, who traveled to Austria with her husband in their leisure time.

Other leisure activities Soldiers participated in included going to the spa, relaxing in the hot tub, skiing and snowboarding, and traveling to nearby castles.

“The class, hanging out, it all helps to relax and get away from day-to-day stuff,” Bravo said.