CLAY NATIONAL GUARD CENTER, Ga. –
The Georgia Department of Defense marked a transfer of spiritual leadership during a changing of the stole ceremony at the Clay National Guard Center March 5, 2023. The ceremony also marked the retirement of State Chaplain Col. Blair Davis following more than 30 years of military service. Davis has served as the State Chaplain of the Georgia Department of Defense since April 21, 2017.
“Today marks the end of a 32 plus year journey of service, “noted Maj. Gen. Tom Carden, Adjutant General of the Ga. DoD. “As that chapter closes another is opening. What will remain consistent is Colonel Davis’s affiliation and identity as a member of the Georgia National Guard. He mentored and grew the next generation of leaders…I personally owe Colonel Davis and his family a debt of gratitude. I am certain that there are many in our formations who share this with me.”
Carden also directed remarks to Chaplain Brig. Gen. Tom Behling, Director, Office of Joint Chaplain, National Guard Bureau who was in attendance.
“I want to thank Chaplain Brigadier General Behling for taking the time to be here,” said Carden. “Your engaged leadership does not go unnoticed or unappreciated.”
Carden additionally recognized Davis’s family acknowledging that his wife, Rebekah, had shared in the service and sacrifice throughout Davis’s career.
“(Today) we honor the family that shaped, supported, and endured the price of service as much as any of us in uniform,” said Carden.
A lifelong Georgian, Davis earned his bachelor’s degree from Georgia State University and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Army Reserve. Upon completing branch training as a transportation officer at Fort Eustis, Va., He was assigned to the 1178th Transportation Terminal Unit at Fort MacPherson, Ga. He left Reserve service in 1992.
Davis’s career in the Georgia Army National began in 1997 as a tank platoon leader in the Cedartown-based Company B, 1st Battalion, 108th Armor Division. Called to active duty in 2000, Davis mobilized with elements of the Macon-based 48th Infantry Brigade to Bosnia Herzegovina as the brigade maintenance officer. Returning in October 2001, he began a masters’ degree program in biblical studies with Luther Rice University That same year he began a long association with the Macon-based 148th Brigade Support Battalion where he commanded Headquarters Company, then based in Forsyth, Ga. He mobilized to Iraq with the 148th from 2005 to 2006. Returning from overseas deployment, Davis received his federal appointment as a chaplain and went on to serve as a battalion chaplain in the Marietta-based 78th Aviation Troop Command and later as chaplain of the 878th Engineer Battalion in Augusta. He was appointed chaplain of the 78th Troop Command in 2008. In 2013 he was appointed deputy chaplain for the Georgia Army National Guard element of Joint Force Headquarters in Marietta. Davis deployed to Northern Iraq in support of Operation Inherent Resolve as commander of the 139th Chaplain Detachment from 2015-2016 and returned to serve the spiritual needs of Joint Force Headquarters before assuming the office of State Chaplain. In addition to his military service, Davis is also a veteran of 18-years of service with the DeKalb Police Department.
The incoming State Chaplain, Lt. Col. David Burris, grew up in Arkansas. His military career began in 1984 as an enlisted infantryman in the Arkansas National Guard where he served for seven years. While serving, he earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Biblical Studies from Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia. His education continued at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas where he earned a Master of Divinity degree. Heeding the call to service, Burris resumed his military career by joining the Georgia National Guard in 2006. Assigned as chaplain for the 1st Squadron, 108th Cavalry Regiment, Burris mobilized in 2009 serving the spiritual needs of the squadron during combat operations in Afghanistan. Upon return in 2010, he was assigned as the brigade chaplain for the 48th Infantry Brigade Combat Team and was again mobilized to Afghanistan in 2014. In 2020, Burris mobilized in support of the Southwest Border Mission where he provided spiritual support to service members assigned to Joint Task Force North. Since returning from the border mission he has served as the State Chaplain for the Georgia Army National Guard.
On the morning of the ceremony, Burris provided services for Soldiers and Airmen of the Georgia National Guard at the Clay National Guard Center chapel.
“I want to congratulation Chaplain Burris as he assumes his duties as our State Chaplain,” said Carden. “I am confident that Chaplain Burris will build on the body of work that Chaplain Davis is leaving behind.”
Carden also expressed gratitude to Burris’s family for their enduring support of him over the years and through multiple overseas deployments.
“Jenni, thank you for your support of Chaplain Burris and our organization,” said Carden noting the support Burris’ wife has rendered to the Georgia National Guard.
During change of command ceremonies, it is traditional for the outgoing commander to transfer the unit’s guidon or colors to the incoming commander, symbolizing their transfer of authority. Similarly, the changing of the stole symbolizes the transfer of spiritual leadership. Lieutenant Colonel Kevin Peek, master of ceremonies, described the significance of the stole.
“The black stole is a scarf-like cloth which hangs from the neck of a member of the clergy, signifying the authority and responsibility of the office held by that individual in the family of God and the institutions of man,” said Peek.
During the ceremony, Staff Sgt. Daniel Mulkey, state religious affairs noncommissioned officer of the State Chaplain office, presented the stole to Davis. Carden then transferred the stole from Davis to Burris, symbolically transferring the mantle of responsibility to the new State Chaplain.
“Thank you, Chaplain Davis, for your many years or mentorship and friendship,” said Burris following the transfer of the stole. “To all of our chaplains serving in the Georgia National Guard, thank you for your service and support, and I look forward to serving with you in the years ahead.” Burris additionally thanked his wife and son for their many years of support.
At the conclusion of Burris’ remarks, Peek read the order officially retiring Chaplain Col. Davis from the Army National Guard. Carden presented the Legion of Merit to Chaplain Davis, then presented his wife, Rebekah with the Georgia Meritorious Service Medal. Chaplain Brig Gen. Behling then came forward and presented Davis with the Order of Martin of Tours branch award.
In his remarks, Davis thanked many members of his National Guard family with whom he has served over the years in domestic operations and overseas, and expressed his gratitude to Dr. Sam Lee, of the Southern Baptist Convention who endorsed him as he began his chaplain career. His final comments were for his family, including his son Sgt. Charles Davis who is currently deployed overseas and daughter Capt. Hannah Davis, U.S. Army, who was travelling. To his wife and children present, Davis offered encouraging words on his retirement.
“Dad doesn’t have to work anymore,” said Davis. “I have been truly blessed… as I close this chapter of my life, I am thankful that I had this opportunity to publicly thank my family for their sacrifices, for the sacrifices you have made for our nation I am very thankful.”
At the conclusion of the ceremony Davis offered a final benediction to his Georgia National Guard family.
While he has retired from the Georgia Army National Guard, this is not the end of Davis’s service. He will continue to serve as in ministry in North Georgia.