AF families relax, learn about resiliency at retreat

EDEN — Hill Air Force Base families poured into Wolf Creek Lodge in Eden for the 2015 Team Hill Air Expeditionary Force Retreat on April 17.

The three-day retreat was created for families with an Airman preparing for deployment or returning from a deployment. The retreat offers free lodging, catered meals and activities for families to enjoy together, as well as resiliency trainings with encouragement on handling difficult obstacles, perceptions and situations. 

This is the 28th retreat hosted for Team Hill. The retreat “strives to positively impact quality-of-life programs for Team Hill Airmen, employees and their families.”

The retreat began with registration, lunch and free time during which families could relax, hike or go horseback riding at Red Cliff Ranch in Huntsville. Dinner was followed by a family dance where children excitedly danced the evening away; even moms and dads made an appearance on the dance floor for some macarena and “YMCA” fun. 

Fathers had the chance to dance with their daughters in a special father/daughter dance. The disc jockey also gave couples a romantic moment to dance together as the night came to a close. To top off the evening, children received a Build-A-Bear with the ability to have a recording from their parents.

Saturday offered time for families to relax and explore the area. Optional afternoon activities included creating a pillow with your Airman’s photo on it with the Hill Heroes organization, storytelling with United Way, hiking and horseback riding.

Throughout the weekend, families dropped off their children for free child care while they attended resiliency trainings. Staff from the Youth Center, the CDC, and trained volunteers watched over the children’s activities and sessions. 

Chaplain Lukus Counterman of Hill AFB spoke at the first resiliency training and gave attendees tools for handling stress, loss, conflict and relationships. “Listening to Chaplain Counterman’s advice on ‘turning a new page’ really impacted my thought processes on handling loss,” said one retreat participant. “I want to and need to move forward and find my new normal.” 

On Saturday, jaws dropped as illusionist and inspirational keynote speaker Brad Barton encouraged the group to exercise resiliency, including the social, spiritual, physical, and mental aspects. He used numerous illusions in his presentation. 

Spouses broke off for an hour on Saturday to attend a lunch breakout session that offered open discussion on the positive and negative aspects of deployment, handling communication, stress and reintegration.

Spouses shared their advice and experiences in hopes of encouraging one in various stages of a deployment: “It’s encouraging to hear that my experiences and reactions to things were normal,” said one lunch attendee. “There are so many resources before, during and after a deployment; you really don’t have to go at it alone.”

The retreat closed on Sunday with one last resiliency training (a family “Amazing Race” activity) and a drawing over the lunch hour for some fun prizes. Families competed during the “Amazing Race” challenge in Minute-To-Win-It games. Upon completion, they received code words that eventually helped them solve a puzzle. Winners received extra raffle tickets for the final prize giveaway.

Countless volunteers, servers and generous givers came together to make the weekend possible. Participants were overwhelmed by the generosity and quality of every aspect of the weekend: “We were so impressed by the housing donated to us and the activities offered to us,” said one first-time retreat participant. “The generosity from everyone involved with putting this weekend together was so appreciated.”

Those interested in learning more about Team Hill AEF Retreats, whether to attend or get involved with volunteering, call the base chapel at 801-777-1110 or visit www.facebook.com/TeamHillSupportOrganization.