The Army's Ready and Resilient (R2) Program
101st Airborne Division (AASLT)
April 5, 2019
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Perhaps the Army’s biggest transformation challenge has been embracing and navigating the right approaches to team building while cultivating mental and physical toughness in the individual Soldier. Old habits of thinking such as “suck it up and drive on,” indoctrinated past generations into believing that that was the way to accomplish the mission.
In 2009, Army psychologists collaborated with the University of Pennsylvania in an effort to establish a program dedicated to reinforcing a resilient culture based off of the University of Pennsylvania’s Positive Psychology Program (Reed & Love, 2009). As a result, the Army implemented its first resiliency program called Comprehensive Soldier Fitness (CSF). This eventually evolved into the U.S. Army’s Ready and Resilient (R2) Program.
R2 performance centers are institutional domains where Soldiers, Department of the Army (DA) Civilians, and family members of Soldiers certify as Master Resilience Trainers (MRTs). They learn 14 resiliency skills in a span of 80 hours, and are then considered commanders’ subject matter experts on resilience excellency.
The ultimate goal of the R2 program is to “empower individuals to achieve and sustain their personal readiness and resilience so that they are best equipped and enabled to support the U.S. Army mission in environments of uncertainty and persistent danger” (“R2: Personal Readiness and Resilience,” 2015, para. 1).
There are currently over 20 R2 performance centers located in the United States, Germany, and Korea, which can provide a variety of resources to any Army organization in support of multiple echelons (Army Resiliency Directorate, n.d.). Staffing consists of a number of Master Resilience Trainer-Performance Experts (MRT-PEs) who generally possess degrees in sports and performance psychology, one Performance Center Manager (contractor), and one Program Manager (senior noncommissioned officer).
To help illustrate the need for the R2 program, imagine your Soldier is attempting to qualify on a rifle qualification range. Distracted by high anxiety, stressful issues at home, and difficulties at work, the Soldier’s performance begins to spiral. The Soldier becomes tense, their heart rate escalates, and they begin showing signs of agitation. As the squad leader, you attempt to coach the Soldier through their qualification, but it seems to worsen. Protocol suggests the Soldier receive remedial training, but nothing helps. The four fundamentals of marksmanship has rendered the Soldier combat ineffective.
Should you give up on your Soldier? Or should you utilize the Army’s R2 Program to help them overcome their anxiety and proficiently perform their job?
How Does It Work
“Ready and Resilient is a collection of comprehensive and far-reaching capabilites designed to guide the Army’s efforts to build the physical, psychological, social, spiritual, and family preparedness and resilience of the Total Force” (“Ready and Resilient Campaign,” 2018, para. 1). MRT-PEs help Soldiers optimize their performance while overcoming high anxiety. Anxiety and stress undermine positive decision-making skills during events ranging from physical fitness training to combat missions.
Circumstances in a Soldier’s personal life can also negatively affect their emotional well-being, which can result in mission failure, injury, or death. To minimize negative effects on performance, MRT-PEs integrate perpetual cognitive training skills which combine Army-based physical training, plyometric exercises, and hands-on practical exercises. By encompassing all three, it assists Soldiers with successfully meeting the physical demands of the job while simultaneously making cognitive decisions as it pertains to job responsibilities.
Consider the Soldier mentioned earlier who experienced difficulty qualifying on their assigned weapon. Had the Soldier received previous training on deliberate breathing techniques, or efficient use of vision for target acquisition, or even the Army’s Engage training module to reduce the amount of stressors in their lives, the qualification process could have gone a lot smoother and the Soldier’s, and unit’s, readiness scores would be higher (“Leader’s Guide,” 2016).
Implementation of cognitive skills training is critical to individual and collective tasks, but it is important for leaders to know the intent is not to teach Soldiers how to perform their military tasks. Instead, MRT-PEs assist Soldiers in refining the skills they already possess. They do not train Soldiers how to fire weapons, conduct convoy operations, or instruct physical fitness. Rather, they coach them how to fire more proficiently, enhance situational awareness, and practice energy activation techniques to increase physical endurance. The ultimate goal is to optimize performance after Soldiers have learned the basic fundamentals of their military tasks.
Some other capabilities R2 performance centers can provide are team building events, 10-day MRT certifications, Executive Resilience and Performance Course (ERPC), Leadership Development Course, Deployment Cycle Resilience Training (DCRT), Resilience Challenge Course for Families, and Engage Training (based on bystander intervention). Leaders at the brigade level or below may coordinate for MRT-PEs to provide training at qualification ranges, Field Training Exercises (FTXs), Army training centers, physical training events, FRG events, etc.
Use Your MRTs
How can Soldiers “promote and safeguard the morale, the physical well-being, and the general welfare of the officers and enlisted persons” (Department of the Army, 2014b, p. 2) as deemed essential in AR 600-20: Army Command Policy? The simple answer is the proper use of the unit MRT. Unit MRTs serve as the commander’s consultant for resilience training. They allocate resources, manage the Digital Training Management System for resiliency training updates, and monitor Global Assessment Tool (GAT) statistics.
Soldiers, DA Civilians, and family members of Soldiers may certify as MRTs. Utilizing the train-the-trainer concept, students participate in a 10-day course (80 hours) where they learn core competencies, resilience, and performance enhancements skills. When used properly, MRTs can positively impact the culture of an entire organization and enhance unit readiness by promoting better health, increasing optimal performance, and building connections.
Note: MRTs are not counselors. While the curriculum is psychology-based, MRTs are only trainers of resilience concepts. In accordance with AR 350-53, 12 of the 14 skills should be taught to all Soldiers annually. This includes the annual requirement to complete the GAT survey.
The Army’s Ready and Resilient program is as diverse as it is unique. Its capabilities and resources are critical to unit readiness and focus on both leader and Soldier development. The MRT-PEs and MRTs are essential as they broaden our learning of cognitive and performance-level skills at the organizational level.
“Ultimately, the goal of R2 is to assist in the facilitation of positive change through leader engagement” (“Ready and Resilient,” n.d.).
Army Resiliency Directorate. (n.d.) Army.mil. Retrieved from http://readyandresilient.army.mil/r2performancecenters.html
Comprehensive Soldier & Family Fitness. (2016). Army.mil. Retrieved from http://readyandresilient.army.mil/CSF2/training-centers.html
Department of the Army. (2014a). Army regulation 350-53: Comprehensive Soldier and family fitness. Retrieved from https://armypubs.army.mil/epubs/DR_pubs/DR_a/pdf/web/r350_53.pdf
Department of the Army. (2014b). Army regulation 600-20: Army Command Policy. Retrieved from https://armypubs.army.mil/epubs/DR_pubs/DR_a/pdf/web/r600_20.pdf
Eidelson, R. (2012, June 04). The Army's flawed resilience training study: A call for retraction. Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/dangerous-ideas/201206/the-army-s-flawed-resilience-training-study-call-retraction
Leader's guide for building personal readiness and resilience. (2016, December). Retrieved from https://www.army.mil/e2/downloads/rv7/r2/policydocs/leaders_guide_building_personal_readniness
Ready and resilient. (n.d.). U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command. Retrieved from https://usacimt.tradoc.army.mil/rr.html
Ready and resilient campaign (2018, August 01). Army Public Health Center. Retrieved from https://phc.amedd.army.mil/topics/healthyliving/hpr/Pages/R2C.aspx
Reed, J. & Love, S. (2009, August 5). Army developing master resiliency training. Army.mil. Retrieved from https://www.army.mil/article/25494/army_developing_master_resiliency_training
Sgt. 1st Class Danny Lampkin currently serves as the 101st Airborne Division (AASLT) Ready & Resilient (R2) Program Manager. His previous duties have included platoon sergeant, operations sergeant, equal opportunity Leader, and observer controller/trainer (Belt Buckle #521) at the National Training Center from 2015 to 2017. He has a Bachelor of Science degree in Homeland Security and Emergency Management from the University of Ashford. Lampkin has deployed twice to Iraq and once to Afghanistan.