Burt Scearce, '87
in October 2007
Burt Scearce: A Life of Loyalty
Lieutenant Commander Robert "Burt" Scearce lives a life of loyalty. That includes loyalty to country, family, and the University of South Carolina.
Burt recently retired from United States Navy after 20 years of service to his country. The ’87 Carolina graduate now makes his home in Chatham, Virginia. Growing up in what he calls the very patriotic town of Danville, Va., Burt's choice of a military life was a no-brainer.
"I felt the need to serve my country," Burt recalls. "The career part just happened over time. I wanted to go into the Navy because no one in my family had ever served in the Navy. I knew then that no one in my family could tell me 'back-in-the-day' stories. I enlisted in the Navy in 1982 and was offered an ROTC scholarship in 1983."
Initially Burt was offered an appointment to West Point with the ability to transfer to the Naval Academy at Annapolis the following year. Growing up only 35 miles from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, Burt had hoped to take his scholarship there, but was wait-listed as an out-of-state student. UNC's loss was USC's gain as Burt found a home at the Columbia campus.
"I called USC and talked with the ROTC freshman advisor about one month before school was scheduled to start," Burt says. "I told him I wanted to transfer my scholarship to USC, but I needed help registering for classes, getting lodging and a food plan. He said he would take care of everything and he did just that. I felt the Navy ROTC unit made a commitment to me and I was going to fulfill my four-year commitment to them."
Having a great uncle living in Columbia also helped in his decision to come to USC. Shortly thereafter, Burt's "loyalty" would be tested again, but he was able to honor his commitments to the Navy and to Carolina.
"I wanted to serve in the Navy and finish what I started," Burt says. "After my freshman year at USC, I was offered an appointment to Annapolis. I declined because I would have started over as a freshman. I loved USC, and the freshman advisor at USC really helped me get into USC ROTC and I wanted to fulfill my commitment to the unit."
Fond Memories of Carolina
Burt enjoyed his college days like any other student, taking advantage of the many extracurricular opportunities available at Carolina.
"My best memories are life in Bates House, Bates 'beach,' listening to Hootie and the Blowfish, who were USC students at that time, tailgating, USC Football and Baseball games, ROTC spring and fall parties in the armory, hanging out with friends at Pappy's and Group Therapy, and my life-long friends."
While ROTC duties created demands on his time, Burt says juggling those obligations with regular college life was not too difficult, and he enjoyed the whole experience.
"ROTC was like belonging to a fraternity," Burt says. "Not exactly the same, but similar. It was not too tough. There were additional commitments and requirements above and beyond what was expected of a normal student. However, I was also on scholarship. I did work some to assist in paying for my housing and meals. I liked a lot of my classes. I really would have a hard time singling out a favorite."
After graduating from USC in 1987, Burt was commissioned as an Ensign in the Navy. He was assigned to the USS Portland, where he would serve for nearly four years. This included missions during Desert Shield and Desert Storm.
"The USS Portland transported Marines for amphibious assault," Burt says. "My first assignment is why I stayed beyond my initial commitment. I was the Navigator. My first C-O (commanding officer), Captain Joe Greene, and X-O (executive officer), Commander Dave Bradley, had a positive impact on me. They were motivational leaders. They led by example and set high standards, but they also believed in having fun. With my father being a Vietnam Vet, our welcome home from Desert Storm was very memorable."
Burt was later assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower from December 2001 through August 2003, and later the amphibious ship USS Nashville. From there he moved on to the Commander Operational and Test Evaluation Force in Norfolk, Virginia, where he was the Operational Test Director for the Lewis and Clark, a dry cargo and ammunition ship that provides logistics support.
"The COTF is responsible for active duty personnel plans and conducts operational testing on ships, aircraft and systems to determine operational effectiveness and suitability for sailors and marines," Burt explains. "I was able to influence test planning, and in conducting some tests, discovered some issues or concerns that were corrected prior to delivery of the ship to the Navy. I think we were really able to influence positive changes on that ship that will benefit the Navy and Marine Corps far into the future."
Looking back on his military career, Burt recalls how each tour of duty had its own unique challenges and difficult times, but it was still rewarding.
"I have found that as time passes you keep the good memories and discard the bad ones," Burt says. "Some things that may have seemed to be large challenges or tough at the time, now do not seem to be that way once you are through them. The biggest challenge after I got married was trying to balance the work requirements of a Surface Warfare Officer with family including small children. I have missed my share of birthdays and holidays."
Burt is a proud member of the Carolina Alumni Association, citing his desire to stay connected to his university. Having recently built a new home for his family in Chatham, Virginia, Burt seems very relaxed as he looks forward to a new career after 20 years in the military.
"I am in the job search mode now with a couple of opportunities but nothing firm," Burt says. "I am hoping to work in the Chatham area or find a new career that would allow me to tele-commute some and may require some travel."
Now that he's no longer on a ship, Burt enjoys being with his wife, Andrea, and children Gage (13) and Grace (7). He is also ready to come back and see his alma mater.
"Military service has not allowed me many trips back," Burt says. "Up until two years ago, homecoming was on the weekend of my daughter's birthday. I gave her birthday priority. I did make it back in 1998 for homecoming. I hope to get back again next year."