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Oklahoma Nat’l Guard soldier collapses, dies after fitness test

U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers' boots. (U.S. Army Reserve photo by Staff Sgt. Ken Scar)
March 23, 2023

Spc. Jaykob R. Pruitt, a cavalry scout with the Oklahoma National Guard 1st Squadron, 180 Calvary Regiment completed a two-mile run during the Army Fitness Test on March 4, walked away from the track, fell, and became unresponsive. 

CPR was administered and Pruitt was transported to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead at the age of 19. 

According to the Army Preliminary Loss Report, Pruitt’s death is the third this year, an increase from the average on-duty sports and recreation death incident rate of one per year. 

Pruitt’s death has brought concerns for troop safety back to the forefront, in part as the incident follows the death of Spc. Sun-Ho Lee, who died at Camp Humphreys, Korea while performing recovery drills. 

For military members and their families, fatality rates in outside-of-combat circumstances are frighteningly high.

A Congressional report published in September of 2022 details military personnel deaths between 2006-2021, showing the accidental death rate for active duty personnel as 32 percent of all deaths. For the same time period, 14 percent were killed in action, 4.6 percent died from wounds sustained, and 17.9 percent from illness or injury. 

READ MORE: Florida National Guardsman fights for his life after Miramar hit-and-run crash

How many of those accidental deaths are related to training exercises is unclear. 39 percent of accidental deaths involved vehicles, while 14 percent involved alcohol. The underlying factors in the remaining cases aren’t specified. 

Another study, the House Armed Services Committee report, documents 80 training-related fatalities among service members for the year 2017. 

All branches of the military are required to follow the Department of Defense Safety and Occupational Health Protection Program, but some families of troops who die in training exercises say stronger protections are needed. 

Marine Corps First Lt. Hugh Conor McDowell, 24, was killed while conducting a training exercise at Camp Pendleton in 2019 when the light armored vehicle he was riding in rolled and fell into a ravine. 

His parents, Susan Flanigan and Michael McDowell, along with his fiancé Kathleen Bourgue, pressed for reform. The Government Accountability Office responded with a study of safety standards and rollover accidents. 

The report, published in 2021, places emphasis on increased training and clear standard operating procedures as measures that should be undertaken to reduce soldier accidents. 

According to the Military Times, the cause of Pruitt’s death is still under investigation. While the results of the investigation are pending, Pruitt was laid to rest with full military honors.  

“Our thoughts and prayers are with Jaykob’s family, friends, and fellow soldiers,” said Maj. Gen. Thomas H. Mancini, adjutant general for Oklahoma. “Together, we are mourning the devastating loss of a promising young man and soldier.” 

This article has been updated to reflect a typo: “became unresponsive.” We regret this error.