An 29-year-old Illinois Guardsman of 11 years reportedly died last week after taking a physical fitness test at Fort Custer in Augusta, Mich.
The Chicago Tribune reported Monday that Sgt. 1st Class Jerome W. Baker, of Riverdale, Ill., was running for his semiannual fitness test on Sept. 13 when he stopped during a two-mile trek at a Michigan training center and sat down.
Realizing he needed help, Baker’s colleagues called 911. He died en route to a Lansing hospital. An official cause of death was not given.
Colleagues told the Chicago Tribune that Baker was a role model who worked hard to provide for his four young daughters. He also made rap music and videos as a hobby.
“He said one of the biggest things was he just wanted to be a great father to his children,” Master Sgt. Kevin Bonds told the newspaper. “As far as the military was concerned, he just wanted to be a good leader.”
A full-time soldier, Baker did two tours in Germany, according to the Illinois Guard. He was in charge of readiness for Company G, 634th Brigade Support Battalion, 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team.
He was at Fort Custer completing the Senior Leaders Course.
“Jerome served with the Illinois National Guard for 11 years building a reputation as an intelligent noncommissioned officer and mentor,” Brig. Gen. Daniel M. Krumrei, the guard’s adjutant general, said in a statement. “He was well-respected and admired by his fellow soldiers, subordinates and leaders.”