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Fort Drum highlights services for married soldiers after release of divorce rate statistics

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FORT DRUM — In light of high divorce numbers in Jefferson County that some linked to the area’s military population, post officials outlined the wide range of programs it offers married soldiers.

“We know the Army life is complex and stressful, so we have these programs in place to help them,” said Chaplain Maj. Howard “Rick” Cantrell, garrison family life chaplain.

An analysis from the Albany Business Review in February showed Jefferson County had 5.16 divorces and annulments per 1,000 people, the second highest rate in the state.

A number of civilian counselors and divorce attorneys who spoke with the Times linked the statistic to the post’s population and the stress caused by overseas deployments, a frequent part of life for the post’s 10th Mountain Division.

Dr. Todd L. Benham, the post’s behavioral health chief, acknowledged the county’s high percentage of military-affiliated residents, but said he was not sure if that was the reason for the county’s per-capita divorce rate.

“There’s a correlation; I’m not sure if there’s causation,” he said.

Among the resources the post offers are Strong Bonds programs, unit-level retreats and events where couples learn communication skills, the offerings of the post’s Army Community Service office, such as financial aid, career placement and family advocacy, and temporary military family life consultants, who can provide more anonymity for soldiers and families seeking help.

“Families have complex issues, and we need people with diverse skill sets to help them out,” he said.

Maj. Cantrell said in the past few years he has seen a rapid increase in the number of services available, possibly a sign of their importance.

“We want the Army to be strong across the board,” he said. “We understand if the family is not strong, the Army won’t be strong.”

Among the programs available through the post’s behavioral health system are its Child and Family Behavioral Health Service, which includes a licensed marriage and family therapist, a psychologist and multiple social workers.

Those resources are vital as soldiers and spouses deal with what can be stressful deployments.

Dr. Benham said his office traditionally receives an influx of traffic about three months after a deployment. As in civilian relationships, he said, many marriage problems center on money and sex, and how couples deal with those conflicts.

“It’s really what you do with it from there,” he said.

Dr. Benham said soldiers identified as having potential problems before returning home are seen by social workers locally, who may refer them for additional counseling. Similarly, spouses often attend briefings with advice on dealing with the reintegration process.

The key, both Maj. Cantrell and Dr. Benham said, is getting soldiers to seek help before problems get out of control.

“You don’t wait till you have pneumonia till you see a doctor,” Dr. Benham said.

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