According to the Mississippi National Guard, a 38-year-old Illinois National Guard member has died as a result of heat-related injuries during training at Camp Shelby.
According to Lt. Col. Deidre Smith, Director of Public Affairs for the Mississippi National Guard, the soldier died this past Friday, Aug. 11, after becoming sick due to the high heat during an Army Combat Fitness Test early in the morning. He was attending the U.S. Army Basic Leader Course at the 154th Regiment Regional Training Institute. Smith said he was a seasoned soldier who experienced a medical emergency as a result of the heat and was tended to by a medic on scene before being rushed by ambulance to Forrest General Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Forrest County Deputy Coroner Lisa Klem said that his body is being sent for an autopsy.
“It’s a tragic thing to have to tell this story,” Smith said. “Our hearts and thoughts and prayers go out to this family and to the members of the Illinois National Guard. This is a tragic day.”
The death is under investigation pending the autopsy, but all immediate indicators were that the soldier experienced heat-related injuries in the extreme summer heat.
On Saturday, Smith said an 18-year-old soldier was doing a familiarization event in which he was learning how to strategize and practice for a physical test. The soldier started experiencng heat-related symptoms and was immediately given water and taken into the shade. When he wasn’t getting better, he was taken to Forrest General to make sure he was getting the proper medical assistance as well.
“The blessing is the immediate reaction of the leadership,” Smith said.
State leadership quickly initiated a safety stand-down order, which requires that all outdoor physical fitness activity stop from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. until further notice.
“Because of the extreme heat, we don’t want to put them in any sort of situation that would risk their health and safety,” Smith said. “These are extraordinary men and women, but there’s an inherent amount of risk and we understand that. This order doesn’t stop us from our mission, but it des put additional safety precautions in place to assist with safer training during the day.”
To mitigate any further inherent risk, Smith said five precautions are being taken.
1. Soldiers are being encouraged to drink plenty of water
2. Soldiers are being given opportunities for additional breaks
3. When possible, training is being moved inside or into shady areas
4. Physical fitness events are being moved into gymnasiums or other inside facilities if possible
5. Soldiers can take off their outer shirt and wear a t-shirt and pants if conducive to minimize the heat, and they can unblouse their pants legs from their boots
Smith said the leadership is consistently monitoring and evaluating the weather conditions and providing risk assessments in order to provide safety to service members as temperatures are expected to be back up in triple digits starting Friday.