Fleet Air Arm Commander leaves his mark

Published on Ms Dallas McMaugh (author), LSIS Sarah Williams (photographer)

Topic(s): HMAS Albatross, Squadrons, Change of Command

Commander Fleet Air Arm, Commodore Chris Smallhorn, (left) receives the weight of command from Commodore Vince Di Pietro at a supersession ceremony at HMAS Albatross, Nowra.  (photo: LS Sarah Williams)
Commander Fleet Air Arm, Commodore Chris Smallhorn, (left) receives the weight of command from Commodore Vince Di Pietro at a supersession ceremony at HMAS Albatross, Nowra.

There was no need of car or driver to transport Commodore Vince Di Pietro to his recent change of command ceremony at the home of Navy's Fleet Air Arm in Nowra.

The outgoing Commander of the Fleet Air Arm chose to do things in his own considerable style, chauffeuring himself in his vintage red Ferrari.

Things were a little different when he arrived for his first posting at HMAS Albatross in 1978 as an 18-year-old straight from pilot training in Melbourne.

In the intervening years Commodore Di Pietro’s distinguished career has bought him back to the Naval Air Station on several occasions, but has also taken him around Australia and the world with high profile and demanding postings including staff officer at the Australian High Commission in London and Australian Naval Attaché in Washington.

Addressing assembled personnel, Commodore Di Pietro said the ceremony was an important event, but he was careful to note it was not about him.

"In my heart and mind this is very much about you," he said.

"This organisation has done extraordinary things in the past three years and I’ve had the privilege and honour to be here for the last years of my career which has spanned the best part of four decades.

“From my perspective, after so many years, and having seen how other services in other countries put things together, what the Royal Australian Navy has achieved from this team in that time is unbelievable.

“This really is my opportunity to say to you that what you have done for your nation, what you do for your Navy, what you achieve in reputational terms for our organisation, the Fleet Air Arm, is incredible.

“You each have a terrific career ahead of you and I just wish I was at your end of a career and not mine."

 Commodore Di Pietro’s pennant was then lowered, folded and passed to him as a second pennant was broken in recognition of Commodore Chris Smallhorn assuming command of the Fleet Air Arm.

“Today is a change of command," Commodore Smallhorn said.

“But I’d like to keep the focus on the celebration of a great commander and a 'helluva' guy.

"Both personally, and on behalf of the Fleet Air Arm I’d like to thank Commodore Di Pietro, for his professionalism, for his achievements, for his enthusiasm and more than anyone, for his mentorship of hundreds - you have left your mark and it is indelible.”