HATTIESBURG, Miss., - The Mississippi Army National Guard is continuously assessing and improving its readiness for all types of missions and deployments. Army Chaplain Capt. David Morris, the first full-time, permanently-funded support chaplain for the Mississippi Army National Guard, is the newest component of the plan to keep readiness levels at their best.

Now that it is a full-time position, we have a chaplain ready and available to assist in the work that the National Guard does, said Morris.

Morris was born and raised in Jackson, Miss., where he attended Madison-Ridgeland Academy, then Mississippi College. His master's of divinity is from the New Orleans Theological Seminary.

Morris received his calling to serve as a military chaplain through prior service members pushing him toward the profession. They saw his leadership, compassion, and desire to help people. He commissioned on Sept. 14, 2010 as a chaplain into National Guard. Before this position, he worked with the Yellow Ribbon program out of Joint Force Headquarters.

Since childhood, he has always wanted to be in the military and being a chaplain was the best way he could help Soldiers, said Morris.

"His focus is on our physical, mental, and spiritual needs", said Brig. Gen. John Rhodes, commander of 66th Troop Command. "Chaplains play a critical part in enhancing an individual's readiness."

"When we think of chaplains, we always think of a preacher, but the chaplain does more for the formation than just preach," said Rhodes. "The chaplain functions in so many different areas. Far more than anyone else in the formation."

Readiness can be broken up into three divisions - the mental, physical, and spiritual ready, said Morris. He looks at it like a triangle and when one side is missing that Soldier is not ready.

He helps out with family outreach services, causality notification, and family readiness for Soldier's deployment, said Morris. He is here to help with the toll that being a service member can put on the Soldier and their family.

"He is involved with anything dealing with mental health", said Rhodes.

He does counseling for many different situations - from suicide to the Army's Strong Bonds program, which helps singles, marriage couples and families through tough times, said Morris.

Chaplains are just as involved with the mental health of a Soldier as they are involved in the Soldiers' spiritual health, said Morris.

"One thing I do is every drill weekend, I make sure our Soldiers always have some resources so that they can be spiritually fed", said Morris. Regardless of religious tenet, he can help Soldiers find the resources needed to practice the faith they believe in.

He is also responsible for the arrangement of chaplains to make sure the entire state has access to a chaplain in a timely manner, said Rhodes. This is important because chaplains are needed to be close and available for units and their families who need their support.

He summed up his goals as the first full-time support chaplain as improving the three R's of the Mississippi National Guard: Resiliency, Retention, and Readiness.