Life in the RAAF: Chris Hodgetts relishes innovation role

When Sergeant Chris Hodgetts joined as a Communications Information System Controller nearly 20 years ago, he never dreamed that one day his role would help capture imaginative ways of doing business using digital innovation tools.
SERGEANT Chris Hodgetts never dreamed he would help capture imaginative ways of doing business using digital innovation tools when he joined as a Communications Information System Controller nearly 20 years ago.
His current posting to the Air Warfare Centre (AWC) Digital Innovation (DI) Laboratory at RAAF Base Edinburgh provides personnel the ability to experience, play and innovate with new and emerging technology such as Augmented and Virtual Reality.
“Having an understanding of old and new communication systems has been really interesting and challenging at times,” Sergeant (SGT) Hodgetts said.
“Working with cutting edge information systems technology can be problematic, in particular when attempting to interface them with older systems.
“However I was drawn to this role by the critical nature that effective communications play in modern warfare.
“I know how much the systems we operate and maintain contribute to enabling ADF to perform its duties.
“Through allowing members to experience the technology first-hand, it will help to identify areas where such technologies may have application for in-service capability.
“This experience will get people thinking about how it may be utilised now or in the future to enhance or re-imagine their areas of capability.
“This will be achieved by providing demonstrations throughout Air Force and asking users to develop their concepts and ideas to a proof-of-concept stage.
“The intent is to accelerate innovation in Extended Reality in order to 'Ready the Warfighter'.”
Initial projects that the DI Lab has worked on in recent months include enhanced communication and collaboration with the Canadian Forces Aerospace Warfare Centre utilising Augmented Reality for real-time holographic model manipulation, as well as commencing trials with high-end 360 video for use in immersive Virtual Reality education and simulation experiences.
“Alongside with my colleague, Tim Freeman, we showcased the DI Lab at Avalon Airshow earlier this year which was a huge success.
“We welcomed more than 48,000 attendees through the Lab, even CAF stopped by to experience the technology and learn about digital innovation.”
His initial employment training consisted eight months extensive Communications Information Systems training at the Defence Force School of Signals at Simpson Barracks Watsonia in Melbourne. This included tactical radio networks, deployable information systems and strategic communications.
“I’ve done many different jobs across Defence but this one has pushed me outside my comfort zone into a new and exciting world of possibilities.
“Having this experience under my belt, has been very beneficial to my professional development and provided me with tangible skills that are transferring to a civilian role.
“To anyone who is driven, adaptable, and looking for a challenge – I absolutely recommend a career in communications as Air Force moves forward into the 5th generation.”
The AWC Digital Innovation Lab 5-station demonstration and 3-station fly-away demonstration capability are now operational with thousands of Defence and non-Defence members already experiencing the possibilities of new and emerging technology.