Innovation earns Australia Day CSM for CPO Spencer

Published on LEUT Sarah West (author), POIS James Whittle (photographer)

Location(s): HMAS Stirling

Topic(s): Australia Day Honours, Conspicuous Service Medal

Chief Petty Officer Electronics Technician Andrew Spencer in the Weapons Electrical Workshop at Fleet Support Unit-West on HMAS Stirling, Western Australia. (photo: POIS James Whittle)
Chief Petty Officer Electronics Technician Andrew Spencer in the Weapons Electrical Workshop at Fleet Support Unit-West on HMAS Stirling, Western Australia.

‘Challenge and Innovate’ is a fundamental pillar of Navy’s Signature Behaviours and a Senior Sailor at HMAS Stirling has demonstrated significant leadership in this area, earning himself a Conspicuous Service Medal (CSM) in today’s Australia Day Honours and Awards list.

Since childhood, Chief Petty Officer Andrew Spencer has always been interested in naval weapons systems. This interest coupled with a desire to continue his family’s history of military service inspired him to join the Royal Australian Navy as an Electronics Technician, and he has since specialised as a weapons technician.

In 2003, Chief Spencer was a member of HMAS Anzac’s Ship’s Company when the Royal Australian Navy frigate conducted a Naval Gunfire Support mission on the al-Faw Peninsular in southern Iraq. 

“That was the first shot fired in combat by a Royal Australian Navy warship since the Vietnam War and it was greatly satisfying to see the endless hours of training put into effect with total professionalism and efficiency by all involved,” Chief Petty Officer Spencer said. 

“We were doing the job that we were all trained for and it was a highlight of my career,” he said.

Since joining the Navy, Chief Spencer has served at sea in three Destroyers, HMA Ships Brisbane (II), Hobart (II) and Perth (II), and three Anzac Class Frigates, HMA Ships AnzacArunta and Warramunga.

“Working as a maintainer, operator and ultimately as the supervisor of ships’ armament and Fire Control systems has been incredibly rewarding and satisfying,” Chief Petty Officer Spencer said.

“The thrill and excitement of a 5-inch gun firing is something that has never diminished for me.”

Chief Spencer is currently enjoying a shore posting to HMAS Stirling, where he manages the Weapons Workshop at Fleet Support Unit West. 

It is in this role that he has earned his highest career accolade to date – the CSM.

His contribution has been instrumental in establishing Fleet Support Unit West as the designated repair facility for all the off-board chaff launchers utilised on the Royal Australian Navy’s Anzac Class Frigates. 

The innovation has not only resulted in enhancing the technical skills of Electronic Technicians (Weapons Specialists) posted to Fleet Support Unit West, but has also resulted in cost savings for Navy by alleviating the need to pay external contractors to do the work.

Today’s Australia Day Honours and Awards were announced by the Governor-General and Chancellor of the Order of Australia, His Excellency General the Honourable Sir Peter Cosgrove AK MC (Retd).

Chief Petty Officer Spencer was one of six Navy members to receive the Conspicuous Service Medal (CSM). 

His citation reads:

For meritorious achievement in weapon safety and materiel management in the Royal Australian Navy.

Chief Petty Officer Spencer made and outstanding contribution to the inspection, maintenance and availability of Navy's weapons systems. He displayed exemplary professional mastery and initiative in developing personnel training, re-utilising dormant equipment and implementing updated procedures. His efforts contributed to improved availability of systems to the Navy, improvement in support capability and maintenance competencies and reduction in long-term support costs.

Chief Spencer said the award was unexpected.

“I am both extremely surprised and honoured to be receiving the CSM,” Chief Petty Officer Spencer said.

“Although recent achievements have been highlighted, I think of this as a validation of a career where I have always striven to do the best job I am capable of.”

“Any achievement in the Navy is the result of teamwork and any individual award is also usually the result of a team striving toward a common goal, so I think the award is as much for my hardworking team as for myself,” he said. 

Twenty-three Navy members were announced as Honours and Awards recipients in today’s Australia Day Honours and Awards List.

The Royal Australian Navy congratulates Chief Petty Officer Spencer and all recipients who have been recognised with honours or awards.