Terminally-ill teen becomes ‘soldier for a day’ in NC Guard

North Carolina National Guard
Story by Sgt. 1st Class Robert Jordan and Sgt. Leticia Samuels

Date: 08.06.2013
Posted: 08.08.2013 16:24
News ID: 111599
Terminally-ill teen becomes ‘soldier for a day’ in NC Guard

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. - Army Pvt. Devin Sutherland sat up straight in his wheelchair as he took oath of enlistment to protect and defend the Constitution. This was the beginning of a six-hour career as North Carolina National Guard “soldier for a day” at the NCNG Army Readiness Center, Aug. 6.<br /> <br /> Sutherland beat bone cancer but the aggressive treatment left him in heart failure so he could not pursue his dream of joining the military. <br /> <br /> He told his Winston-Salem State student nurse Ciara Riley he wanted to be an explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) specialist. <br /> <br /> “It’s always been something I have wanted to do. It’s the most important part of the military,” said Sutherland.<br /> <br /> Riley took the dream as a challenge since she is also Army Staff Sgt. Riley with the NCNG’s 1452nd Transportation Company. <br /> <br /> Her unit, with help from the Greensboro and Winston-Salem Police, Winston-Salem State University staff, Brenner Children's Hospital and many others, welcomed Sutherland for a day of training.<br /> <br /> After enlistment as an Army private, Sutherland in camouflage uniform stood from his wheelchair to try on a bomb protective suit. <br /> <br /> Winston-Salem Police Officers and NCNG soldiers strapped the 100 pounds of protective armor to their newest recruit. <br /> <br /> “It is a lot different in real life,” said Sutherland after briefly wearing the heavy armor. <br /> <br /> For his next mission, Pvt. Sutherland used a small robot to find fake bombs hidden under a Winston-Salem Police Department truck parked in the center’s drill hall. With skills of many years of video games, Sutherland soon had the robot racing across the floor. <br /> <br /> After trying his luck with the most modern equipment, it was time to use a slightly older technique. <br /> <br /> Sutherland got to work with a Greensboro K-9 dog and handler to find hidden inert explosives in the building.<br /> <br /> “He had it down pat,” said Army Sgt. 1st Class Stewart Stevens, an EOD technician with the NCNG's 430th Ordnance Company headquartered in Washington, N.C. <br /> <br /> With these successes came advancement as Sutherland was promoted to Army staff sergeant during a quick ceremony at the center.<br /> <br /> The final exercise was neutralizing a simulated explosive device outside the center. <br /> <br /> Target, a suspicious package near the center, the tool, an eight-wheeled, 700-pound, Remotec F6A robot. With careful control and some advice from the WS Police, Sutherland put the bomb out of commission.<br /> <br /> “The controls are a little difficult to learn, but other than that, it is easy,” said Sutherland. <br /> <br /> Mission done, it was time for his retirement with a speech, several gifts, many hugs and a dream come true.<br /> <br /> “I won’t be able to go into the military now, but at least I get to be (in the military) for the day,” said retired Army Staff Sgt. Devin Sutherland, North Carolina National Guard.