Photos courtesy of CREDO Japan
Photos courtesy of CREDO Japan

Retreat from stress: Mini-vacations through CREDO

by MC2 Michael Doan
NAF Atsugi

With plenty of acronyms mixed in the Navy’s lexicon, the term CREDO might just pass by unnoticed. But, those who don’t investigate further could find themselves missing out on an opportunity they didn’t even know existed.

"TheChaplainsReligiousEnrichmentDevelopment Operation (CREDO) is a special ministry of the Chief of Chaplains to deploy special skills-training opportunities to Sailors and Marines in a multitude of ways,” said Lt. Cmdr. Gene Monnin, director of CREDO Japan. “One of the primary concepts we use is the retreat model.”

CREDO primarily offers three core program retreats. These are: Marriage Enrichment Retreats, Family Enrichment Retreats and Personal Resiliency Retreats.

“All CREDO retreats are entirely free to qualified participants,” said Monnin. “A ‘qualified participant’ is any active duty service member and their qualified dependents. Marriage programs are for legally married couples, while family programs are for families of all shapes and sizes (depending on the program). Personal Resiliency programs focus on individuals, and either married or single active duty service members may attend in order to learn and grow as a person.”

For some service members it may be difficult to plan such activities that the retreats offer with their work schedules. This program can help take the stress out of planning their next family trip. “These retreats are an opportunity for Sailors and their families to get away from the work environment for a couple days and have to time to recharge,” said Lt. Jason Christafaris, Naval Air Facility Atsugi Chaplain. “They get to go out and do some activities. Usually here in Japan they will go to Tama Hills, a campground that offers various outdoor activities including golfing, paintball, horseback riding and archery.”

The retreats that CREDO offer are more vacation away from work. They are designed to inspire hope, strengthen spiritual well-being, and enrich the lives of service members and families. “CREDO’s goal is to enhance the resiliency of the fleet by providing opportunities for leadership development, team building, relationship enrichment and individual growth,” said Monnin.

“The Chaplain Corps prides itself on contributing to the overall strength and readiness of the Navy by bringing their unique abilities and insights to the table as we encourage our shipmates to learn, evaluate, and prepare.” Living in a foreign country brings with it unique struggles in a new and unfamiliar environment. “Residing in Japan may cause feelings of isolation because you are so far away from family and your normal comforts of home,” said Christafaris. “So being able to step away from work and engage with others in this community is an opportunity that some Sailors don’t have here in Japan.”

Christafaris went on to say, in his role as chaplain he notices that a lot of people may not yet fully understand themselves and why they react the way they do to certain situations. “When human beings are under stress, they attempt to retreat to the comfortable and familiar to regroup and recover,” said Monnin. “Being so far removed from a lot of the family, friends and comfort zones that members have relied on in the past, they are severely limited in the options available to help them to decompress and deal with the mounting stress. CREDO steps in to fill this gap by providing ‘white space’ in which service members can learn to experience the value of other, internal resilience resources that every individual carries with them wherever they go.”

Providing the right tools for the individual service member can help strengthen relationships with themselves and their family. “We do some seminars as a way for them to learn about themselves through things like a DISC (Dominance, Influence, Steadiness and Compliance) assessment,” said Christafaris. “It is a personality assessment where they can learn about their strengths and how to use that in a leadership setting. Understanding your personality and strengths, that empowers you and you are able to recognize your tendencies and use them in the work place. I think it is important to note that the marriage enrichment retreat is not marriage counseling,” said Christafaris. “It is intended to assist married couples in strengthening their relationship skills through a combination of instruction, group and private discussions, exercises, and free time to help each couple reconnect and grow in their relationship.”

For those interested in taking advantage of a new acronym that some may not have known, talk to your CREDO coordinator. “As a prior enlisted Sailor where I used to use these programs and now as a chaplain who helps facilitate them,” said Christafaris. “I think they are amazing.”

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