Former Base Chief moves from one sea-faring career to another

Change of Appointment for Base Chief, from the left: CPO1 Gino Spinelli, outgoing Base Chief; Capt(N) Jason Boyd, Base Commander, and CPO1 Ian Kelly, incoming Base Chief, sign the certificates officiating the transfer of appointment. Photo by LS Mike Goluboff, MARPAC Imaging Services

Change of Appointment for Base Chief, from the left: CPO1 Gino Spinelli, outgoing Base Chief; Capt(N) Jason Boyd, Base Commander, and CPO1 Ian Kelly, incoming Base Chief, sign the certificates officiating the transfer of appointment. Photo by LS Mike Goluboff, MARPAC Imaging Services

Peter Mallett, Staff Writer ~

Last week, when Chief Petty Officer First Class Robert ‘Gino’ Spinelli signed his name on the Base Chief Change of Appointment certificates, he marked the end of his 35-year naval career.

Dozens of friends, family and co-workers gathered in the Naden Drill Shed July 4 to bid farewell to the 55-year-old and welcome his successor CPO1 Ian Kelly.

“I was honoured to be selected as Base Chief in 2015 and am very fortunate to finish my career in this position,” said Chief Spinelli. “In a job like this you really can make a difference in the morale and culture by creating a positive atmosphere throughout the formation, even during difficult times. If you lead the way with a positive approach and you are consistent, you will make a difference.”

Much of his career was spent on the deck of warships such as HMC Ships Kootenay, Mackenzie, Vancouver and Protecteur as a boatswain. It was on the ship’s deck, braving the elements, and tackling the often physically demanding work that he learned the importance of rules, discipline and leadership. That experience aided him as Base Chief when handing out some tough love to junior rank sailors. While discipline was always in his tool box, he much preferred to educate over punish, especially since he has walked in their shoes much of his life.

A career that has spanned more than three decades is laced with stories and experiences, many in far away places, the luxury of a well-travelled sailor. Chief Spinelli easily plucks memories to demonstrate how well-rounded a career he has enjoyed. In the early years of his navy life (1983), when he was a young lad with little concern for injuries, he took part in the Navy Gun Run, a long ago tradition in which teams of sailors compete to transport a field gun and its equipment over and through a series of obstacles in the shortest time.

A decade later he skippered Sail Training Vessel Goldcrest, entering it in two Swiftsure Races. A few years after that he sailed in Protecteur to East Timor on International Force East Timor, an Australian-led peacekeeping mission to address the humanitarian and security crisis that took place. He also served as Coxswain in Vancouver in 2011 when it deployed on Operation Unified Protector as part of NATO’s air-sea campaign during the Libyan Civil War.

These experiences are feathers in a well-worn peak cap, one he will officially take off July 31 when he retires. 

Friend, and now former boss, Captain(N) Jason Boyd, spoke of the year he has spent with the Chief, a mix of both heartfelt sentiment and brotherly quips.

“Though I only had the privilege to work with CPO1 Spinelli for the past year, I have been amazed to witness his tireless efforts and tremendous dedication to make CFB Esquimalt such a fantastic place to work, adhering always to a People First, Mission Always mantra,” said the Base Commander. “Poppa Gino has been one of the most beloved, respected and admired Base Chiefs to grace the halls of N5. I have been lucky enough to learn from him, work through some difficult and challenging situations, but most of all, I feel honoured to have become his friend.  He will be sorely missed on the Base, but I do plan on paying him a visit occasionally to keep up our cake quota.”

The Base Commander won’t have far to travel to see his former Base Chief. As soon as he hangs up his uniform, civilian Spinelli will pass through the dockyard gates to his next job with CFB Esquimalt’s Port Operations and Emergency Services Branch. He’ll be back on the ocean in an auxiliary vessel, a deckhand once again.

“I really do like working outside and out on the water,” said Spinelli. “For me, working in an outdoor setting will have numerous mental and physical benefits.”

Donning a big grin, suggesting his eagerness to taste the salty air again, he says his career as a sailor has come full circle.

Filed Under: Top Stories

About the Author: The Lookout Newspaper can trace its history back to April 1943 when CFB Esquimalt’s first newspaper was published. Since then, Lookout has grown into the award winning source for Pacific Navy News. Leading the way towards interactive social media reach, we are a community resource newspaper growing a world wide audience.

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