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Deployments and the stressful pace of operations can test even the strongest military marriages and committed relationships. A program once called the Navy's best-kept secret aims to arm couples with insights and communication skills to overcome troublesome, tense situations.

"Interest in CREDO definitely is growing," says Navy Capt. Jerry Seely, supervising chaplain of Navy Region Southwest. "There are waiting lists at many of the locations."

CREDO, which stands for Chaplains Religious Enrichment Development Operation, provides free weekend getaways to help service members and their families develop support resources for personal and spiritual growth.

Led by chaplains and trained volunteers, CREDO participants are encouraged to define their own goals and work at their own pace.

The most popular getaway offered by CREDO is the marriage enrichment retreat, says Seely. It's at these retreats where couples learn how to keep their friendship and marriage growing, how to handle inevitable conflicts, and how to strengthen spiritual, emotional, psychological and physical aspects of their commitment.

"We do not offer counseling per se in the retreats," says Seely. "The emphasis is on developing communication skills to prevent the pitfalls that relationships so often suffer. It's an opportunity for a couple to conduct a marriage checkup, and it can be especially helpful in these stressful times."

CREDO also provides onsite workshops to Navy commands in support of the Operational Stress Control program. The programs usually are tailored for the young sailor, says Seely, and include stress assessments and discussions related to commonly shared work stressors.

CREDO is open to all active-duty military. It operates through seven Navy regions (Pearl Harbor, Hawaii; Bremerton, Wash.; San Diego, Calif.; Jacksonville, Fla.; Norfolk, Va.; Groton, Conn.: and Naples, Italy) and Marine Corps bases Camp Pendleton, Calif.; Camp Lejeune, N.C.; and Okinawa, Japan.

(first published in 2009)

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