POTFF hosts Marriage Care retreat for SOF Airmen and families

  • Published
  • By Capt. Jessica Tait, 353rd Special Operations Group Public Affairs
  • 353rd Special Operations Group

Military life is full of stressors caused by deployments, frequent moves and a demanding work schedule that impacts the lives of Airmen and families in the 353rd Special Operations Group. The Preservation of the Force and Families (POTFF) staff addresses these pressures through tailored counseling support programs such as the Marriage Care retreat, which the POTFF team hosted March 16-18, 2018, at Ie Island, Okinawa, Japan.


“The Air Force recognizes the shared stress experienced by military couples and much like the other branches of service, they have invested in programs to help Airmen develop healthy relationships at home,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Craig Nakagawa, 353rd SOG chaplain. “Marriage Care takes the best of all the marriage counseling programs out there and consolidates it into a weekend retreat.”


The weekend was broken down into four sessions cleverly titled “I take you”, “to have and to hold”, “for better or for worse” and “to love and to cherish.” The lessons addressed the baggage couples take into marriage, methods to promote positive communication skills and the different ways to apologize in order to achieve forgiveness.


“This weekend we have 14 couples from across different squadrons practicing relationship-building skills, while also sharing intimate moments at this beautiful island resort,” said Nakagawa. “Military couples come to this off-base retreat in civilian dress without uniform or rank. We want the couples to focus on communication, forgiveness and other skills without any outside distractions from work or home.”


The Air Force Chaplain Corps has historically offered marriage counseling as an option for struggling couples. The Marriage Care retreat takes a broader approach from individualized counseling to empower couples to work on their relationships with the tools provided during the classroom sessions.


“Sometimes couples are disappointed that the classroom sessions aren’t longer because they’ve reached a breakthrough and want to keep the conversation going,” said Nakagawa. “I tell them that the lasting transformation happens in the conversations outside the classroom and to take advantage the one-on-one time with their spouse.”


The POTFF team planned a number of recreational activities such as boat tours and hikes to elaborate dinners and date nights where they encouraged the couples to go all out in the romance department.


“This marriage retreat provided so many great tools for my spouse and I to immediately implement,” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Crystal Benitez, 17th Special Operations Squadron first sergeant. “It was the perfect environment to address some challenges in our relationship without the outside distractions from work and home. I would highly recommend this retreat to newlyweds or couples that have been together for years.”


Special operations forces (SOF) Airmen don’t always have the time or ability to take advantage of the resources regularly available to other service members. The POTFF team is embedded within the 353rd SOG and provides a tailored approach to counseling that targets the specific needs of the Airmen they serve.


“Our Commandos are meeting mission demands and finding innovative ways to do business despite the unique stressors that come with the SOF lifestyle,” said Nakagawa. “I truly believe the investment made in the POTFF program has enabled them to perform at this level. Our team has focused on providing programs like Marriage Care because it directly supports the resiliency of our workforce and promotes a healthy home life.”


POTFF is a U.S. Special Operations Command program designed to address the pressure on the force and their families, to maintain and improve readiness, operational effectiveness and the immediate and long-term well-being of the force.


“The Air Force understands the link between healthy relationships at home and job performance,” said Nakagawa. “I’ve had couples come to me after the Marriage Care retreat saying how they were on the path towards divorce and that the lessons learned over the weekend saved their marriage. I truly feel blessed to support our military couples as they positively grow in their relationships.”


Marriage Care is a weekend retreat program designed by Air Force Family Life trained chaplains to help Airmen and their families renew and revitalize military marriages.