Patriot Profile: Avery Southerland joins the United States National Guard


Anne Wu, Senior Writer

Each day started at four in the morning, followed by hours of rigorous training. For the first three weeks, soldiers were “smoked” for five hours each day, which entailed hours of push-ups, sit-ups and various other work-out activities with no breaks in between.

By week four, soldiers began to hone their shooting prowess, needing to shoot 23 out of 40 targets, ranging from 50 to 300 meters away, in order to pass Qualification Day.

This was Avery Southerland’s typical day this past summer. At the age of 17, he had joined the ranks of the 350,000 people who can call themselves National Guardsmen.

Throughout the two months of Basic Combat Training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, 40 soldiers quit, unable to endure the grueling military training and isolation from their families. Soldiers were prohibited from using their phones and received letters from their families only once a week.

“Basic Training was the hardest, most stressful time in my whole life, but it taught me to keep on fighting and to never give up,” Southerland said.

Southerland’s crew was known as the Rain Fire Crew. Though diverse in ethnic and cultural backgrounds, the soldiers found unity in dining and training together.

“Senior Drill Sargent Scott told us ‘It doesn’t matter if you’re white, black, Latino, Asian, female, male, straight or homosexual. When they get shot on the battle field, they all have one thing in common: their blood is red,’” Southerland said. “They were the best brothers that I could have had during that time.”

Southerland attributes his inspiration to join the army to the influence of his friends and his desire to continue his family tradition. Southerland’s father served in the navy for seven years and his grandfather served as a marine following the Korean War.

“It was because of friends like Jeff Hoffman who were planning to join the military, or were already in it, that made me want to not only be their brother here in good old Renton, Washington, but to be their brother on the battle field as well. Plus,” Southerland said, “I wanted to join my family history of being in the military.”

While thankful for his decision to join the army, Southerland acknowledges that it was not an easy decision to make, but encourages others to also join as well.

“As I got into high school, I started making a lot of friends and started building relationships that I wanted to have forever. I really wanted to stay and have a normal life,” Southerland said.

Yet, as his friends graduated and joined the military, he began to change his mind. Southerland made the final decision to enlist in the military in February, 2014, when he received a letter from the National Guard inviting him to enroll in the split training program. The program allows high school juniors to join the military and to receive specialized training in a specific occupational field; Southerland enlisted as an electrician.

National guardsmen are only deployed during times of crisis, and not only do they live as normal civilians for the majority of the time, but they also receive financial assistance to pay for college tuition.

“The most memorable part of becoming a National Guard was during our rite of passage ceremony,” Southerland said. “Senior Drill Sargent Scott told us the meaning behind our platoon’s motto, ‘IN HOC SIGNO’. It is Latin for ‘in this sign, we will fight.’ In that moment, when I felt that I was a strong human being for the first time, I had become a United States Soldier.”