New ‘Engage’ Training Boosts Soldier Readiness

By Tara Davis, Directorate of Prevention, Resilience and ReadinessJune 26, 2024

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(Courtesy Photo from Command Sergeant Major Shavonda Devereaux)
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The Bayne-Jones Army Community Hospital Regional Health-Central Best Leader Competition team pictured from left: Capt. Christopher Julian, chief of occupational therapy; Staff Sgt. Tabitha Moore, combat medic, Sgt. Garrett Paulson, combat medic; Spc. Carlos Cardona, pharmacy technician; Spc. Roberto Ramos, radiology technician; Pfc. Savana Neves, operating room technician. The team completed all challenges during the competition at Fort Bliss Texas with Moore and Paulson, earning the title of “Best Junior NCOs” for the region. (Photo Credit: Jean Graves)
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The Army's R2 strategy emphasizes readiness and trust-building. Among its trainings, Engage stands out, teaching Soldiers leadership skills and how to handle personal and professional challenges. Based on extensive research, the training has been updated to focus on real-life scenarios and practical skills, emphasizing the importance of supporting one another during difficult times.

Engage training aims to develop Soldiers’ leadership skills and confidence in handling professional and personal confrontations. Engage is based on 50 years of bystander intervention and prosocial behavior (e.g., helping others, kindness) research. “Engage is a workshop that focuses on taking personal responsibility to intervene with friends, Family members or fellow Soldiers before a problem persists or issues escalate,” says Liz Beaubrook, R2 curriculum developer. “The training is structured around the three components of Engage: I am aware, I am responsible, and I have a plan.”

The training is helpful in cultivating both individual and institutional skills. For the individual, Engage sessions encourage Soldiers to improve their one-on-one communication, to practice confrontations and to recognize their duty to be aware, responsible and have a plan for when a peer doesn't follow Army procedures or is acting out inappropriately. The training boosts institutional skills by fostering trust among Soldiers through strengthening their social connections and encouraging everyone to interact with one another.

“Engage offers crucial prosocial strategies that significantly enhance Soldiers' ability to serve as reliable battle buddies. By teaching them to step up, stand in and make informed decisions when facing potentially hazardous situations, Engage equips Soldiers with essential skills that can make a vital difference,” says Leonard Keatts III, an R2 performance expert and Army veteran. “Those who undergo this training undoubtedly gain an advantage over those who do not, as they are better prepared to navigate effectiveness.”

Engage recently went through a curriculum refresh so that it now focuses on the science of prosocial behaviors, not only crisis or bystander intervention. Although much of the content remains the same, the revised training differs in a few ways. Beaubrook says, “Engage helps to identify how we can build better, stronger bonds within our units so people are potentially more willing to ask for help and Soldiers notice the need to help sooner.”

Keatts was the instructor for the new Engage curriculum pilot at Fort Eisenhower, Georgia. He says the new focus is on real-life situations and how understanding others gives Soldiers more opportunities to build strong bonds and identify potential crises early. Keatts says, “Soldiers will get better at understanding themselves and their surroundings, communicating effectively and knowing how to help when it’s tough.”

Beaubrook highlighted the real-world scenarios rather than lecture learning. Beaubrook says, “The new curriculum has a renewed emphasis on skills rather than didactic content. The new training focuses on equipping Soldiers with self- and situational-awareness skills, communication skills and strategies to overcome resistance to help.”

The components and key teachings from Engage can be used across many settings. According to Beaubrook, Engage is like a basic training that teaches useful ideas and skills for all sorts of situations, from being proactive and helpful to handling emergencies. It covers three main parts that work in different contexts. It’s a training that helps build important skills and works well with other programs that teach specialized knowledge and skills.

Beaubrook and Keatts both shared their key takeaways from the revised training, which include checking in with others, having the courage to speak up when something seems off and being intentional when you offer support to others.

Beaubrook’s other takeaways are that it’s good to ask if someone seems like they might need help, even if you’re not sure, and to remember how much you can help just by being there for someone. They might need professional help sometimes, but just knowing you care can really matter.

Engage training can be tailored. Engage is a two-hour workshop that is available at select pilot locations but will soon be rolled out to the entire Army and available at all 32 R2 Performance Centers.

All Soldiers are eligible to participate in Engage training. Soldiers or units interested in receiving this training or other R2 trainings should contact their local R2 Performance Center. For more information on Engage training, visit