What's your job about?
As an armament engineer, I am responsible for weapons, weapons systems and associated test equipment and bomb disposal. I manage a team of armament technicians. Together we maintain the advanced weapon systems deployed on fighter aircraft, including missiles, bombs, torpedoes and mounted guns; and the computers that control them. It’s our job to ensure weapons are serviceable so that aircraft are ready to fly.
What's your background?
My family moved to Australia from Chile when I was six. We settled in Hobart, Tasmania. My parents are teachers. As English is my second language my parents were conscious of addressing any learning gaps that could arise from learning in a second language. They homeschooled me from grade 8–10 and the rest was mainstream schooling.
Dad teaches maths and science. Mum is a kindergarten/preschool teacher who also loves and excels at science and maths. A lot of time was spent on my English skills at home. What I enjoyed learning were maths and science.
When I was thirteen Dad built a house for us. We were all involved and enjoyed being a part of constructing something.
Could someone with a different background do your job?
The Navy, Army and Air Force have officer career options for candidates from high school graduates through to tertiary qualified professionals.
I completed a Bachelor of Engineering (Mechanical) at the University of Tasmania. My work placement was with Caterpillar working on underground mining machines from Burnie in Tasmania. I was offered a full-time job at graduation. I was there for a couple of years and gained design experience. It was a technician at Caterpillar who was previously an avionics technician in the Air Force who encouraged me to give the Australian Defence Force a go.
What's the coolest thing about your job?
Armament officers are quite specialised. We get to undertake some design work with the Systems Program Offices (SPOs).
The Air Force needs professional engineers to sign off on the integrity of a system or piece of equipment to ensure continued airworthiness and safety. There is the potential to be posted to an SPO where you can contribute by making technical decisions on engineering changes such as software upgrades, modifications to equipment, system safety, and be involved in the approval of structural repairs.
In my first posting, I was embedded with Boeing. The posting took into account my prior design experience. I had the opportunity to work on the Super Hornet platform. The work was focused on introducing new weapons into the system and addressing common faults. I worked with senior engineers who were ex-military. They mentored and supported me in the role.
An Air Force career is really what you make of it.
What are the challenges of your job?
For me, the most noticeable transition from engineering in the private sector to become an Air Force engineer was taking on the role of a leader. Before I joined the Air Force, engineering was largely me and my computer. In the Air Force, it was me and sixty people to manage.
You’ll find yourself taking on responsibilities and challenges that are beyond your initial expectations. Early on I had responsibility for a large team of people with significant experience and expertise. They were coming to me with problems and situations I’d not faced before. You need to quickly adapt to leading the team, troubleshooting and arriving at solutions drawing on the team’s collective knowledge. The Air Force equips you with leadership and management training. These are skills you don’t necessarily gain from a degree or working in a commercial engineering environment.
What are three pieces of advice for yourself when you were a student?
In the Australian Defence Force, you can set yourself up for the future with world-class training opportunities. Be paid to develop vocational and life skills and put both into practice undertaking interesting and varied work.