A catchy notice near the command post lets soldiers from Company B, 1st Battalion, 35th Armor Regiment, in on a marriage enrichment video that will be shown at Combat Outpost Dolby.

A catchy notice near the command post lets soldiers from Company B, 1st Battalion, 35th Armor Regiment, in on a marriage enrichment video that will be shown at Combat Outpost Dolby. (Ben Bloker/Stars and Stripes)

PATROL BASE DOLBY, Iraq — A group of Baumholder, Germany-based soldiers huddled around a TV set to watch a sex video, with the viewing hosted by their battalion chaplain.

Well, that’s a little misleading.

The roughly hourlong video was an installment of a Christian-based DVD series titled "Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage" by minister Mark Gungor.

The episode shown recently at this patrol base southeast of Baghdad offered tips on how to improve sexual relations within a marriage. It was all very PG-rated.

With the divorce rate for enlisted soldiers at a 19-year high, advice for strengthening marriages could not be more relevant.

The proactive approach of showing marriage seminar DVDs to deployed troops is an effort by Army Chaplain (Capt.) Archie Durham of 4th Battalion, 27th Field Artillery Regiment to strengthen marriages. The battalion is known as Task Force 4-27 during its current deployment.

"Deployments take a lot out of a marriage, and they need to see things like this to help with, not only when they get back, but their marriage in general," he said. "Most people look at marriage seminars — when you go, ‘Oh, let’s go to a marriage seminar’ — they think, ‘Well, there’s nothing wrong with my marriage.’ Well, there doesn’t have to be anything wrong with their marriage."

A husband for 15 years, Durham reads books and watches DVDs on marriage. He equates watching marriage seminars to the Army conducting preventive maintenance on vehicles.

"You do it regardless," he said. "If the vehicle’s OK, if the vehicle’s messed up, it doesn’t matter. You’re still going to do it just to check it out. Well, you do the same thing with marriage. If you’ll do that over and over and over, it’ll give you ideas on how to better your marriage. You never have a perfect marriage. You’re always working on your marriage, so why not watch, go to seminars and read books."

The five-part series by Gungor gives advice on communication, relationships and yes, sex. The video shown recently, which contained no nudity, profanity or sexual acts, offered a humorous look at how couples can better please each other physically.

Even dealing with the taboo topic of sex, Gungor managed to keep his humor and mild innuendo all very church-appropriate. He uses Scripture to reinforce his points.

Capt. Allan Buck Carroll, commander of Company B, 1st Battalion, 35th Armor Regiment, got engaged the day before he left for his first deployment to Iraq. Now he is on his third deployment and remains happily married.

Just as he has during his previous deployments, Carroll constantly communicates with his wife.

"I come out of deployments having a stronger marriage than I do going into deployments," he said. "Anything that we have like this where you can learn more about your relationship with your wife and come out of this deployment even being a better husband is really important — especially with, right now, marriage being on the downturn in the United States but even more so in the Army because of the deployed state."

On the video, Gungor mentioned that one of the keys to pleasing women sexually is to give them time. Gungor then said that the male sexual experience lasts only two minutes on average.

One thing that can increase a man’s endurance is frequency of encounters, he said.

Gungor then jokingly told the women in his studio audience they shouldn’t expect more than two minutes from their men if they only had sexual encounters with their husbands once every two weeks.

A soldier watching the video deadpanned a hysterical one-liner.

"Try 10 months," he said.

Divorce statistics

The divorce rate for the entire military in 2008 was 3.4 percent, a 0.1 percent increase from 2006 and 2007.

The Army enlisted divorce rate for 2008 was 3.9 percent — the highest in 19 years.

The divorce rate of the general population in the United States for the 12 months preceding February 2008 was 3.6 percent.

Sources: Defense Department, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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