By Annie Rhoades
As he officially assumed command of the 1st Battalion, 46th Infantry Regiment on June 27 at Braves Rifle Field in Fort Benning, Georgia, Lt. Col. Sheldon Morris (BBA 00) was eager to begin the next step in his accomplished military career.
“I just want to be the best that I can be every day,” said Morris. “As you look at this job and what we do – as long as you take care of the people that take care of you, then you let the cards fall where they may. That’s how I’ve lived. I’ve had the great honor to work by, with and for some great soldiers and leaders, and I’m so fortunate and honored to be selected to command this battalion.”
A 1994 graduate of Paxon School for Advanced Studies in Jacksonville, Florida, Morris took a year off from school before accepting an offer to play football for Itawamba Community College.
“I have a cousin who was being recruited by Itawamba, and I talked to the coach and he invited us both up,” Morris said. “Playing at Itawamba afforded me the opportunity to go to Ole Miss.”
The recruiter for the University of Mississippi Army ROTC program contacted Morris in 1997 to see if he would be interested in enrolling at the university.
“I wanted to know if I was to earn an Army scholarship would I have the opportunity to play football at Ole Miss,” Morris said. “The PMS [Professor of Military Science] was the authority over that, so I met with him and earned a scholarship. I was then directed over to Coach Greg Knox, who was a receivers coach at Ole Miss at the time under Coach Tuberville. My last year there in 1999 I was on a football scholarship. The rest is history.”
While having a professional football career was never a long-term goal, Morris, a member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, always knew he wanted to serve in the U.S. Army.
“My uncle, retired Sgt. 1st Class Willis Mitchell, was a Vietnam vet,” Morris said. “His uniform when he came home from leave is what got me, so when I had the opportunity in high school I joined the junior ROTC program for three years. The only time I wasn’t in a uniform after high school was the one year I sat out from school and the two years I was at Itawamba. From that point on I’ve been in a military uniform.”
After graduating from Ole Miss, Morris was commissioned in August 2000 and went on active duty in December. He relocated from Oxford to Fort Benning, Georgia, to begin Infantry Officer Basic Course. He then completed Airborne School, Mechanized Leaders Course before graduating from Ranger School in September 2001 – three days after 9/11.
Morris moved to Fort Hood, Texas, where he assigned to 2-7 CAV as a line platoon leader, a scout platoon leader and a company executive officer before going to Iraq for his first deployment. While in Iraq, Morris assumed duties as the battalion logistics officer.
After returning from Iraq, Morris completed the Army’s Captain’s Career Course at Fort Benning before deploying to Iraq again for a second tour where he served as battle captain and assumed command of Alpha Company 1-12 CAV. He then re-deployed his company and assumed command of Headquarters and Headquarters Troop 6-9 CAV and deployed to Iraq for a third tour.
“After pinning on [the title of] major, I was taken out of command and assumed the job of 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division (Greywolf) liaison officer to the 25th Infantry Division. After that I went to Fort Leavenworth for school for about a year, and that’s also when I received the Outstanding Young Alumni Award from the Ole Miss Alumni Association [in 2010].”
Morris went on to serve in Afghanistan for two tours with 4th Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, steadily moving up the ranks serving as squadron executive officer, brigade operations officer and as the brigade executive officer.
“When we deployed to Afghanistan for a second tour our brigade was assigned to the Train Advise and Assist Command Northeast, which was a new initiative where we were advising and assisting corps-level Afghan military leaders on operations and logistics,” Morris recalled. “We were there about nine months and worked for the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault).”
Morris was assigned to Fort Leavenworth upon his return for three years where he served as observer/coach controller trainer in the Mission Command Training Program (MCTP) before moving up to headquarters and serving as strategic planner in the Commander’s Initiatives Group (CIG) and director of strategic communication for Combined Arm Center (CAC).
“While at Fort Leavenworth, I was honored following the publishing of the Battalion Command Centralized Selection List and I was selected to command 1-46 Infantry Regiment,” Morris said. “This Army is so big, but it’s so small. It’s about the relationships and the bonds in which you build. I’m so fortunate to have a great wingman in my Command Sgt. Maj. Geleney and to have the family atmosphere that is here at Fort Benning. We have a unique environment that is very rewarding. The one who does the yeoman’s work here is the drill sergeant and their families. They invest more time than anybody will ever know putting in anywhere from 14 to 15 hours or more a day as they are developing and transforming civilians to service members. That’s a lot of investment, so If you look for any heroes in this battalion it’s going to be the drill sergeants.”
Among the many influential people Morris credits in helping him along the way are his wife, Chelsea, their two children, Lauren and Dylan, his mother, three brothers, extended family, and his father, Neal Graham.
“I didn’t get to where I am today on the actions in which I did,” Morris said. “It was due to the actions of the soldiers and families that I’ve had the pleasure of and opportunity to work for and with. We have a phrase here: invest early and often, prepare the future, today. My goal is to have fun in whatever I do, wherever it takes me.”