Actor forgoes promising career for Army service
May 19, 2010
FORT WAINWRIGHT, Alaska - September 11, 2001 was a day many will never forget.
Students gathered around televisions and mothers held their children tight as they watched the horror unfold on the TV screen.
Many, in disbelief, asked themselves "why'"
For Capt. Scott Eberlein, 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Fort Wainwright, Alaska, the question was "how can I help'"
The then-33-year-old actor had dedicated most of his time and education to succeed in theater but now wrestled with the decision to leave it all behind and join the military.
Eberlein graduated from the University of California Santa Barbara with a bachelor of fine arts in 1990 and in 1993 earned a master of fine arts from the University of California Los Angeles.
"I set out on a course to make it," he said.
Prior to 9/11 Eberlein\'s dedication to theater led to a promising career in Hollywood.
As an actor he played roles in many movies and TV shows including "L.A. Confidential," The X-Files," and "Nash Bridges".
Eberlein could even brag that he performed next to big screen actors John Goodman and Robert Hays.
"I was mildly successful: however, 9/11 made my chosen profession seem ridiculous," said Eberlein. "I knew that my peers would attempt to solve the world's problems at a local Starbucks and I couldn't stomach that."
The Los Angeles native wasn't a complete stranger to the Army.
Before he had ever considered joining the military, Eberlein played a sergeant on TV's "The Army Show." "It's kind of ironic, but funny, because I still get residuals every month," he laughed. "I even got a check for 15 cents."
Determined to make the change from onscreen sergeant to unscripted defender of freedom, Eberlein walked into a Santa Monica, Calif. recruiting station on Sept. 12, 2001 at the age of 33.
With the love and support of his fiancAfA he signed a four-year contract. "I was very surprised because he had a pretty good career as an actor," said Renner Eberlein, Scott Eberlein's wife.
"I encouraged him to join because it seemed like his heart was in it," she said. "I try to focus on the importance of the Army's mission, my husband's honorable service, my love of this country and my faith in god."
One year after enlisting, the ex-actor found himself performing in a different type of theater, one that no college degree could prepare him for.
"If someone had told me on Sept. 10th, I would be in the Army I would have laughed in their face," said Eberlein. "I wanted to catch those that jeopardized the security which I had taken for granted all of my life."
He deployed with Fort Bragg's 82nd Airborne Division, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom where he spent eight months scouting the enemy.
"We were actively pursuing the enemy," remembers Eberlein. "Six to nine guys would just scout a hill for days. It was amazing."
After returning from a deployment to Afghanistan, Eberlein had done everything he'd set out to do.
He served his country, actively fought for freedom and survived the Army's "All American," 82nd Airborne Division, despite being older than most of his peers. So what was left to accomplish'
"I thought I would do four years and go back to doing what I was doing, but I found my calling," he said.
Eberlein decided a return to the red carpet and the hopes of someday having a star on the walk of fame was not in the cards and instead took a commission as an officer in June of 2005.
"1st Sgt. Shirey, who I respected very much said to me 'Sergeant, the Army needs good leaders and I think you can be one of them'," said Eberlein.
Just being an officer wasn't enough for Eberlein, he wanted to join an elite group that wears the Ranger tab. There was only one thing standing in Eberlein's way. Eberlein, 38, was almost a decade older than the typical Ranger graduate.
He found motivation in the creed he would soon live by.
Whenever things got tough, or the thought of quitting entered Eberlein's mind, he said he would remember the words of the Ranger creed: "Never shall I fail my comrades. I will always keep myself mentally alert, physically strong and morally straight and I will shoulder more than my share of the task whatever it may be, one-hundred-percent and then some."
"I wasn't going to quit," said Eberlein. "I was not going to leave without that tab."
The self-motivated lieutenant graduated May 5, 2006 from Ranger School.
Almost nine years and a pair of deployments later, Eberlein has continued to find motivation from the events of 9/11, the support of his family, and the words of the Ranger creed.
"I have been given huge amounts of responsibility in taking care of Soldiers," he said. "My career in the Army has been my greatest accomplishment and I look forward to my next responsibility."
He won't have to look very far or very long. Now 42, Eberlein is leaving Fort Wainwright in June to attend the Army officer career course at Fort Benning, Ga.
"I thank God for keeping this old man healthy enough to be taken seriously each challenging step of the way," said Eberlein. "I swell with pride to think about the opportunity of service that I have been allowed, not just to my country and fellow Soldiers, but to local nationals as well."