Gunfighter retreat provides resources to build better marriages

CASCADE, Idaho - Participants in the 2011 Gunfighter Marriage Retreat discuss ways to strengthen and enhance their marriages during a class Aug. 28. The marriage retreat was designed for Airmen who recently returned home from a deployment or are deploying in the near future and was sponsored by Liberty Chapel and the base Airmen and Family Readiness Center. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Benjamin Sutton)

Participants in the 2011 Gunfighter Marriage Retreat discuss ways to strengthen and enhance their marriages during a class in Cascade, Idaho, Aug. 28. The marriage retreat was designed for Airmen who recently returned home from a deployment or are deploying in the near future and was sponsored by Liberty Chapel and the base Airmen and Family Readiness Center. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Benjamin Sutton/Released)

CASCADE, Idaho - Families of the 2011 Gunfighter Marriage Retreat pose for a photo Aug. 28. The participants spent three days in Cascade, ID at the Ashley Inn taking classes on ways to strengthen their marriages. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Benjamin Sutton)

- Families of the 2011 Gunfighter Marriage Retreat pose for a photo Aug. 28. The participants spent three days in Cascade, Idaho, at the Ashley Inn taking classes on ways to strengthen their marriages. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Benjamin Sutton/Released)

CASCADE, Idaho - Gary Strickland, Airman and Family Readiness Center chief, speaks to participants of the 2011 Gunfighter Marriage Retreat Aug. 26. The event, sponsored by Liberty Chapel and the base A&FRC, consisted of classes that fell under the theme, "SPICE up your marriage." (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Benjamin Sutton)

Gary Strickland, Airman and Family Readiness Center chief, speaks to participants of the 2011 Gunfighter Marriage Retreat in Cascade, Idaho, Aug. 26. The event, sponsored by Liberty Chapel and the base A&FRC, consisted of classes that fell under the theme, "Spice up your marriage.” (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Benjamin Sutton/Released)

MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho -- Approximately 48 families from the 366th Fighter Wing converged at an inn in Cascade, Idaho, for the annual three-day Gunfighter Marriage Retreat.

The event, sponsored by Liberty Chapel and the MHAFB Airman and Family Readiness Center, consisted of classes that fell under the theme, "SPICE up your marriage."

Once the families arrived and checked in to their rooms, the Inn's staff provided dinner and afterward participants dropped their children off at the on-site child care location before the first of the weekend's three marriage classes started. The A&FRC staff performed a comedic skit in order to break the ice and get the retreat rolling.

"The purpose of the retreat was to provide Airmen with focused education to build the skills necessary to strengthen their marriages as well as their families," explained Gary Strickland, A&FRC chief. "The bottom line is strong families build a strong military, and it's our job to provide the tools necessary for success."

The first day had a focus on the speaker/listener technique. Couples were encouraged to practice the technique by picking a tender subject topic and using the technique to resolve the conflict instead of allowing an argument to transpire.

Strickland commented that there was an increase in participation by husbands when the advantage of increased intimacy by using the speaker/listener technique was announced.

"I think the speaker/listener technique is a valuable tool for married couples because sometimes, during an argument, you become so focused on your particular point-of-view that it's difficult to understand where your spouse is coming from," stated Senior Airman Aaron Wanzer, 366th Comptroller Squadron budget analyst. "I liked only spending about a third of our time in classes so we had the rest of our time to practice the processes and techniques."

The second day, participants spent the morning learning about communication skill sets and how assertive communication, not aggressive or passive communication, can help build a better connection between spouses. Later in the day the families had the option of going to a nearby lake where sponsors provided pontoon boats and jet skis for recreational use.

"My family and I really enjoyed the time we spent with each other at the beach," said Senior Airman Clinton McStott, 366th CPTS budget analyst, who recently returned from a deployment. "I have been gone for a long time and a lot of information from the sessions has helped me reintegrate with my children."

Later, families bonded around a bonfire by making smores and spending time with fellow participants.

On the last day, participants learned how to have a balanced couple identity, and the difference between sensuality and sexuality.

"The Gunfighter marriage retreat was a fantastic way for Airmen to come to a beautiful place, enjoy a reasonably priced family oriented getaway, and learn techniques for strengthening their marriages and relationships with their children," stated Tina Patterson, personal and work life consultant with the AFRC. "Our goal is to have healthy couples, healthy marriages and most importantly, healthy Gunfighter families."

According to one A&FRC staff member, this year's retreat was a complete success.

"The more chances we have to empower families with couple's information and communications tools the stronger the families will be, allowing the active-duty service members the ability to focus on their mission," explained Steve Wright, community readiness specialist with the A&FRC. "I truly care about these Airmen and their families, and I really enjoy the opportunity to help them succeed in their personal as well as professional lives."