spence then now

AWCM William “Spence” Cunningham, USNR (Ret)

The eldest son of AEC C.L. Cunningham, USN (ret), Spence was born in Yellville, AR in 1963 and spent the next 14 years following his Dad as a Navy Brat.  He lived in Arkansas, Florida, California, Arkansas again, Guam, Louisiana and then back to Arkansas where his Dad retired from the Navy.  Spence graduated from Flippin High School in 1981 and that is, no kidding, the name of the town.  Following in his father’s footsteps, Spence decided to join the Navy.  Flying and being an “Aviation Anti-Submarine Warfare Operator” appealed to him so he and a classmate left for Orlando, Florida and Navy Basic Training in August 1981 – during which he turned 18!

In December of that same year, Spence entered the AW training pipeline via the Naval Aircrew School in Pensacola.  That was followed by Aviation Fundamentals, AW “A” school in Millington, TN and the Sensor Station Three (non-acoustic) course at VP-30 in NAS Jacksonville.  By August 1982 he had finished training and received sea-duty orders to VP-45. retired Reporting to his AW Shop Chief, AWC Jim Thompson, Spence was informed that the squadron needed him to be and acoustic operator by the time the squadron deployed to Sigonella.  So back he went to FASODETJAX for basic analysis and completed a rigorous on-the-job training syllabus in ASW acoustics; after which he was awarded the Naval Enlisted Classification for P-3C Acoustic Operator.  Spence was likely the last AW in the Navy to receive designation that way.  During his time with VP-45, he completed deployments to Sigonella, Rota-Lajes and Bermuda.  While a Pelican, he qualified as a Sensor Station 1 Operator and advanced two paygrades to AW2.

In early 1987, after five years in the squadron, Spence transferred to shore duty at VP-30 and instructed classes in multiple versions of the P-3C (Baseline, UII, UII.5 and UIII).  He, additionally, held several positions within the Training Department and advanced to Petty Officer First Class.  

In 1990, Spence left active duty to explore civilian opportunities related to the work he was doing on the VP-30 Fleet Projects Team.  He was immediately hired by General Physics to work on training program analysis.  He also affiliated with the Navy Reserves and was billeted with the “Broadarrows” of VP-62.  

Over the next 27 years, Spence has worked with a number of companies (LSI, Cubic, CSC, CSRA and LBB) in Jacksonville supporting training of AW acoustics.  Currently, he is the lead contract instructor over eight acoustic instructors teaching the latest acoustic sensors in the P-3C at VP-30.  In his duty with the Navy Reserve, he entered as an AW1 and was selected, initiated and advanced to AWC in September 1991.  With VP-62, he worked all the Operations/NATOPS related jobs in the squadron and still found time to complete a BS degree and advance to AWCS and then AWCM. 

awWhen Consolidated Maintenance took hold at NAS JAX, VP-62 lost its active duty Command Master Chief and Spence was designated to take his place as CMC.  After 18 months in that leadership role, a full time Senior Enlisted Advisor was ordered in to replace him.

Spence topped his career in 2013 by mobilizing, with VP-62, to support the P-8 transition by completing the first combined Active/Reserve squadron deployment to Kadena, Okinawa.  While there, one of his final flights in the Navy was “on-top” a Chinese “Han” class submarine.  

On December 7, 2013, after 32 years of service, Spence retired from the Navy!
Spence and his wife, Kimberly, split time between Orange Park, Florida and Franklin, NC.

Spence was asked, and graciously accepted, to take over as Association Treasurer from Ron Christopher in February 2017.

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