When Alan Willmore first crossed the gangway of HMAS Leeuwin as a Junior Recruit on New Year’s Day 1970, he never imagined his career would last 50 years.
On Monday, as officers and sailors gathered at Russell Offices, Canberra, to celebrate Navy’s 119th birthday, Chief of Navy, Vice Admiral Mike Noonan, presented Commander Willmore with his third Federation Star to the Defence Force Service Medal – making him only the second member of the Royal Australian Navy, and first commissioned officer, to achieve the milestone.
He started his career as a Junior Recruit Quarter Master Gunner and rose through the sailor ranks to Warrant Officer Boatswain, attracting recognition along the way, including a Flag Officer’s Commendation in 1992 and a Conspicuous Service Cross for service as Commanding Officer of Torpedo Recovery Vessel Tuna in 1993, a posting which was one of many highlights during his career.
In the year 2000, Warrant Officer Willmore was promoted and Commissioned to the rank of Lieutenant. He has since served as Executive Officer of HMAS Betano and the hydrographic survey crew ‘HS Blue’, and Commanding Officer of HMAS Tarakan.
More recently, he has also enjoyed postings to Palau and Papua New Guinea as the Maritime Staff Officer in those locations.
Commander Willmore said he had absolutely loved most of his postings.
“Certainly there has been challenges, mostly in a good way, but I have enjoyed just about all of my postings,” he said.
“My career highlights were definitely driving HMAS Tarakan, loved that, and as Senior Instructor at Recruit School, HMAS Cerberus.
“I also have special memories of HMAS Cerberus as that’s where I met my future wife,” he said.
Commander Willmore has been married to his wife Debra, an ex-Chief Petty Officer Steward, for 21 years.
Soon to retire, Commander Willmore says he’ll be taking a break on a cruise ship.
“I don’t know why, but it seems to be the thing that most retired sailors tend to do,” he said.
“But I’ll be back, hopefully doing reserve time before too long.”
During Navy’s birthday gathering, Commander Willmore was also presented with a Papua New Guinea Defence Force Commendation for his time as a Maritime Staff Officer to Papua New Guinea.