Just days after life-saving surgery, as flood waters inundated Sydney, Corporal Thomas Grayham was back at work.
CAPTION: Corporal Thomas Grayham received a Conspicuous Service Medal in the 2024 Australia Day Honours. Story by Corporal Jacob Joseph. Photo by Leading Seaman Abdus Chowdhury.
The 145 Signal Squadron detachment commander had a tumour removed from behind his nose.
“In 90 per cent of cases of chondrosarcoma, it starts in your leg, but mine was smack bang in the middle of my face,” Corporal Grayham said.
“They took out my fibula to rebuild my jaw.”
He went into hospital as the Northern Rivers disappeared underwater and came home to see parts of Sydney suffering a similar fate.
What happened next would earn the then digger a Conspicuous Service Medal, as part of this year’s Australia Day awards.
With his leg in a boot and eager to get back to work, the information systems technician was assigned to the flood task force and set about fixing a troubled mobile communications system, called Mobile Cloud Operations Network (MCON), first introduced in 2018 when Defence supported the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.
With no connection to Defence Protected Network, MCON was quickly replaced by the user-friendly encrypted messaging app Signal.
First working from home and then from Randwick Barracks, the self-learner was asked to improve the system.
“They gave me freedom to work on it by myself,” he said.
He turned a project consigned to the back shelf into a valuable tool.
Through a Defence-issued iPhone, personnel on tasks like Flood Assist can upload and share data, such as photos of damaged property and their location, in real-time to the protected network.
Commanders can logon to the MCON portal to view information, track and dispatch personnel. They can even see a 72-hour footprint.
Corporal Grayham said it was designed for use on low-security tasks where classified radios hindered communication with civilian agencies.
“Because our radios are protected, we had no way to communicate with them before at a lower-classification level,” he said.
Using MCON, Defence, SES and police can now share location data, maps and reports.
“If you lose a secret radio it’s a big deal. Drop an MCON phone and you can wipe it remotely,” Corporal Grayham said.
Shortly after it was introduced, the requests for MCON iPads, iPhones and laptops doubled.
Corporal Grayham even spoke to professors at Griffith University about the innovation.
Now back at 145 Signal Squadron and one year in remission, he looks back at the experience working with the flood task force as one of the most positive of his career.
“I was just trying to be a good digger at the time,” Corporal Grayham said.
“I knew [MCON] had a good impact on Defence, but I never thought I’d get nominated for an award that comes with post-nominals.
“I was pretty chuffed about that.”