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An interview with Rex Barnes, our UK-based Director of Operations who is responsible for NATO training projects across Europe

Q: Rex, tell us about your role at Calian.

RB: I joined CTS International, a Calian company, in May of this year. CTS (in Norway) and Cadence (in Poland) were acquired as part of the Calian strategy to expand into Europe. I coordinate training for the Joint Warfare Centre, Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE), and the two Joint Force Command Centres in Brunssum, Netherlands and in Naples, Italy. This year, we’re assisting with Battlestaff training.

Q: What type of military training does Calian deliver?

RB: Most training is done in what you’d call a Command Post Exercise. So, primarily on computers with modelling simulation to support. Occasionally, it can be done concurrently in a live environment so you may have people actually on the ground in various terrains. We work closest with the commander and their staff at the higher levels.

Q: How long would a typical training exercise take?

RB: The exercises tend to be between 10 and 14 days, 12 hours each. We frequently return to do follow-up training and assist with the delivery of subsequent exercise cycles.

Q: What kind of experience do Calian trainers have?

RB: Calian trainers are experts in strategic planning, developing training exercises, problem solving and working under pressure, often in hostile conditions. Their unique skill set comes from interpersonal coaching, mentoring and the use of subject-matter experts, role-players and interpreters to enhance the realism of international training scenarios. Often, we have senior mentors at the 3 and 4-star level supporting exercises. We aim for a high degree of realism—for example, if a training scenario calls for an ambassador, we will have an ex-ambassador instead of someone just portraying an ambassador. Same for IOs and NGOs—we will call on someone high up in an IO or NGO who has actually “been there, done that.”

Q: How much military training does Calian deliver across Europe?

RB: Calian has continued military training throughout the pandemic, initially moving to more e-training but now we are moving back to more in-person training. In Europe, Calian is delivering at SHAPE and the two Joint Force Command headquarters, the highest level that you can operate within NATO in Europe. The training is at a strategic level, dropping down to the operational level.

Q: So, Calian is a preferred training partner for Europe’s NATO training centres?

RB: Yes, there are two purpose-built NATO training centres in Europe—the Joint Warfare Centre in Stavanger, Norway and the Joint Force Training Centre in Bydgoszcz, Poland. The Joint Warfare Centre is where we prepare and then deliver higher-level training at the strategic and operational level. It’s a purpose-built facility where NATO staff go to be trained and validated for their forthcoming roles. CTS (a Calian company) has had a permanent presence there for the last 14 years, scripting and preparing all these exercises. We also bring in support people that the military wouldn’t normally have on their staff, such as IOs, NGOs, Red Cross, UN, Ambassadors, media, etc. So, 30 or 40 of those people go for a couple of weeks to prepare for the exercise, six months in advance, and then go back for the two weeks to deliver the exercise and work with the training audience, who come from the NATO headquarters across Europe.

Q: Why do you think NATO looks to Calian for its pre-deployment training and exercises?

RB: Our training supports NATO readiness. We enhance NATO’s ability to project stability, deter adversaries and defend the Alliance. Calian has built a reputation across NATO member states and partner nations for delivering high-end, bespoke training.

Q: How will this training meet the demands of NATO forces as they modernize?

RB: At Calian, we understand that the future battlefield requires integration across land, sea, air, cyber and space. Our training and exercises are tailored to support this strategy.

Q: Does Calian plan to expand its training to more NATO member states?

RB: We are looking to do more training across the NATO international alliance of 30 member states from North America and Europe. I am focused on building our presence in Norway, France and the UK.

Q: Tell me about MaestroEDE™ Exercise Design, Development & Delivery Software Solution—how is it used as part of Calian training?

RB: MaestroEDE™ is a proven E3D tool that we use to run these exercises. It was developed to provide exercise leaders, planners and developers with efficiency, flexibility and control when designing, building and conducting large, full-scale, complex training events and exercises.

Q: Finally, I hear you’re attending Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) this September. What are you most looking forward to?

RB: DSEI is the world’s largest gathering of the defence community and I’ll be there promoting Calian training capabilities and tools. I’m most looking forward to day three (Thursday, 16 September), which focuses on the most important aspect of defence—the people and obtaining and retaining the right skills to support current and future operational advantage. I’m most interested in the evolution of training requirements and technologies, particularly in the light of the evolving threat landscape.

Book a meeting with Rex at DSEI by emailing [email protected].