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