A long path to Army career

Department of Defence

After emigrating with his family to Australia at the age of six, then relocating to Papua New Guinea (PNG) when his father joined the Royal PNG Constabulary, British-born Warrant Officer Class 2 (WO2) Andrew Payne grew up planning to enlist in the Royal Australian Navy after he finished school.

While boarding at the Southport School on the Gold Coast and travelling back to PNG during school holidays, WO2 Payne was inspired to become a dog handler as his father managed the police dogs in PNG.

Seeing the opportunity to combine his love for the Navy and his passion for working dogs as a Navy police dog handler, WO2 Payne enlisted in the Navy on February 4, 1979.

“As a young kid I was always fascinated by the Navy,” WO2 Payne said.

“Despite hating being away from my family while at boarding school, joining the Navy was something I always wanted to do.”

Initially enlisting as a steward, WO2 Payne transferred to become a police dog handler as soon as the opportunity became available.

Six years into his career, WO2 Payne discharged after learning the police dog capability would be disbanded and handlers transferred to general duties roles.

“I loved the loyalty of the dogs and working with them,” WO2 Payne said.

“I didn’t want to go back to general duties.”

Two years into a 16-year career with the Department of Corrective Services NSW, WO2 Payne missed the camaraderie of the ADF, so he enlisted as a combat engineer in the Army Reserves in 1990.

Initially posted to 4th Field Engineer Regiment in Newcastle (later renamed 8th Combat Engineer Regiment), WO2 Payne paraded with the unit on Tuesday nights and one weekend a month and used Reserve leave to attend annual field training exercises.

“While working full time, I didn’t feel I would have enough time to dedicate to Navy Reserves, whereas with Army, it was the typical old reserves of one night a week and one weekend a month,” WO2 Payne said.

Towards the end of his 16 years with Corrective Services, WO2 Payne took leave without pay for two years and commenced a continuous full-time service arrangement with 8th Combat Engineer Regiment, where he planned training and exercises for combat engineers and plant operators.

In 2010, while posted to 17 Construction Squadron, then based at Holsworthy Barracks, WO2 Payne was offered the opportunity to transfer from reservist to full-time service.

“It gave me more job security and meant that I didn’t have to start a new contract every 12 months,” WO2 Payne said.

In the 11 years that followed, WO2 Payne posted to the Combined Arms Training Centre in Puckapunyal and the School of Military Engineering at Holsworthy Barracks before posting to 6th Engineer Support Regiment (6ESR) in 2021.

A year later, upon reaching compulsory retirement age, WO2 Payne transferred back to the Army Reserves as a SERCAT 5 member and in February 2023, Commander Forces Command Major General Susan Coyle presented WO2 Payne with a Federation Star for 40 years of service in the ADF.

“Now I do actual Reserve days,” WO2 Payne said.

“I live in Toowoomba with my wife of 42 years and travel to 6ESR at Ipswich for Reserve work about three days a week, and I work a day or two from home.

“I like to be kept busy and Reserve days give me something meaningful and enjoyable to do.”

/Public Release. View in full here.