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AFIMSC Strong Bonds program enhancements promote wellbeing of the force, families

  • Published
  • By London Prince
  • AFIMSC Public Affairs

A simple web link and a revamped support system for a popular resiliency program are making it easier for installation chaplains to provide Airmen, Guardians and their families spiritual and non-religious events and courses.  

Strong Bonds, a chaplain-led program supported by the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center’s Chaplain Corps Division, enhances quality of life for service members and their families by offering activities to help combat moral injury and promote healthier relationships with themselves and others. The program is popular across the Department of the Air Force, reaching 23,850 people through 637 events and averaging 77 events per month. 

Until the enhancements, Airmen and family members signed up for events and classes through a specific command’s mass email or on a physical signup sheet with pen and paper. Installation chaplain teams depended solely on email for funding requests that could take months for approval. As a result, installations used funding from their own budgets and later applied for reimbursement. 

Now service members and their families can sign up through a web link and installation chaplain teams can instantly monitor their requests.

“It’s now easier than ever for installations to request funding for Strong Bonds training courses and to host an event of their choice,” said Chaplain (Capt.) Portman Werner, a member of the AFIMSC Chaplain Corps Division Resource Management Branch. “The upgraded process automatically calculates costs based on the number of attendees and allows requestors to make changes, saving time and money.” 

AFIMSC has supported the chaplain-led resiliency program since 2020 by funding, tracking and consolidating data using centralized reporting systems. AFIMSC’s chaplain team uses the data to show trends to wing leaders and chaplains so they can offer courses and events to help improve military member and family quality of life. 
The enhancements also speed approval and funding of activities, Werner said. 

“With our new signup system in place, our resource management team has been able to approve, fund and track over 87 events and all trainings which enabled an additional 550 events across the Chaplain Corps, almost double the amount we funded last year,” Werner said.

Strong Bonds courses and events, which can be offered in the chapel, in a unit or at command or base-wide retreats, are designed to develop life skills that improve mental and spiritual health based on research, demand and trends. The program covers a wide variety of topics including family relationships, active lifestyles, personal organization skills, mindfulness, and others.  

“The most common way Airmen and Guardians are involved with Strong Bonds is through unit-led events,” said Chaplain (Lt. Col.) David Leonard, Chief of the AFIMSC Chaplain Corps Division Resource Management Branch. “The unit-assigned chaplain works with the command team to plan events focused on that unit’s specific needs.” 

The program sees its highest success rate with courses that connect developmental learning skills with fun activities. These include miniature golf, skydiving, whitewater rafting, lunch-and-learn sessions, and family, singles and marriage retreats.


“While stationed in Ramstein Air Base, I led a retreat that focused on emotional intelligence where we took a trip to Disneyland Paris,” Werner said. “After the retreat, I received a note of appreciation from a mother of seven children saying that she wouldn’t have been able to afford the trip if it wasn’t for our program and that the topics we presented improved her marriage and parenting skills, making the trip far less stressful.”

The program also helps chaplains and religious affairs specialists become certified in spiritual wellness courses. Once they are experts in preselected topics, they can plan and host events teaching everyday skills to combat stress and boost morale.  

“Helping Airmen and Guardians become resilient while finding their purpose in life hasn’t always been an easy task,” Werner said. “Our goal is to provide curriculum that is verified as impactful to ensure our Airmen, Guardians and their families are getting the very best training wherever they go.”