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Military
By Judy R. Lazarus

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Navy Chief of Chaplains Reflects On 36 Years of Service
(May 10, 2010)

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Official U.S. Navy file photo of Chief of Navy Chaplains Rear Adm. Robert F. Burt (left) and Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy at an Individual Augmentee Symposium at Naval Base Kitsap Bangor in April 2009.
Official U.S. Navy file photo of Chief of Navy Chaplains Rear Adm. Robert F. Burt (left) and Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy at an Individual Augmentee Symposium at Naval Base Kitsap Bangor in April 2009.
 GREAT LAKES, Ill. (NNS - 5/6/2010)

The highest-ranking Chaplain in the Navy has served the religious needs of Sailors, Marines and Coastguardsmen for nearly four decades, and will retire later this year.

Navy Chief of Chaplains Rear Adm. Robert F. Burt is responsible for the vision and implementation of religious ministries within the sea services and will retire in August.

"I think this is the best ministry on the planet," he said. "I've had 36 years of active duty as of this August, and I'd do it all again. It's awesome. I love the Navy."

When Burt retires, he and his wife will move to Silverdale, Wash., a place that has special significance because his two daughters and five grandchildren live in the area.

A native of Springfield, Ore., Burt enlisted in 1970 and served three years as a communications technician and three-and-a-half years aboard USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63) as a data processor.

After an honorable discharge in 1977 Burt completed a bachelor of science degree in biblical studies from Eugene Bible College, then spent three years at Western Evangelical Seminary in Portland, Ore., where he received his master of divinity degree.

Burt, whose father also served in the Navy, returned to duty in July 1981.

"I saw pictures of him in his uniform," he said. "I thought it was pretty cool. Then I realized one day that I could be in both the ministry and the Navy."

Burt served as senior chaplain at Great Lakes from 1999-2000. Although a three-year tour, he was assigned as a detailer for the Chaplain Corps after 20 months. Burt said he has enjoyed every duty station to which he has been assigned.

"I focus all my attention on where I am," he said. "It's always my favorite place."

Burt also explained the feeling of closeness he shares with the chaplain community, complimenting the Sailors and chaplains with whom he serves.

"They really make it a joy to be the chief chaplain," he said. "When I visit commands the CO [commanding officer] can't praise the chaplains and RPs [religious program specialists] enough. I feel like they're talking about my kids."

Burt said the scope of any chaplain's responsibility extends further than hosting religious services and observances.

"They [chaplains] have a moral obligation," he said. "The people we speak up for don't have any power. Often they are new young folks. When chaplains speak out they are empowering those young people."

Burt said that despite advances in technology and the organizational changes in the Navy and at Great Lakes through his time in service, there remains one constant for which he remains thankful.

"The technology and communication are so much better," he said. "But the thing that hasn't changed is the spirit of our Sailors. They are dedicated, they love their country, they are smart, and they sacrifice just like we used to. People are the one common denominator over the years. They still have the honor, integrity and leadership."

By Judy R. Lazarus
Great Lakes Bulletin Associate Editor
Copyright 2010

Reprinted from Navy News Service

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