Commander David Walter was awarded the Conspicuous Service Cross in this year’s Australia Day Honours for outstanding achievement as the Commander Engineer in HMAS Canberra.
He was modest about the achievement, but the award left no doubt as to his merit, with the citation describing Commander Walter’s ‘outstanding leadership, technical mastery and selfless determination’ as ‘critical’ to Canberra’s introduction into service.
"It is nice to be singled out but the team onboard deserves acclaim as well," he said.
"Larger navies would have struggled to do what we did in what was a relatively short period.
"Those involved should feel proud."
Commander Walter worked in Canberra from its arrival in Williamstown in 2012 until the final sea trials last year, and was responsible for the mechanics, electrics and structure of the largest and most complex warship in the history of the Royal Australian Navy.
Regular visits by the Australian Prime Minister and Service Chiefs reminded him of the importance of his role and the profile of the task.
"The size of the task was daunting," Commander Walter said.
"But I used the analogy: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time."
Commander Walter, 42, said he could not have achieved what he did without the support of his wife, Peta, who was pregnant with their second child during the latter part of his posting.
"It isn’t just that I had to sacrifice time away from home, which we all do, but I had to sacrifice my thoughts when I was with Peta as well," he said.
Commander Walter is the former Marine Engineering Officer of HMAS Ballarat and currently posted to the Amphibious Afloat Support Group.