OWATONNA — An Owatonna soldier who died while in basic training is the second casualty that Fort Jackson has seen since September, according to Army officials.
As the South Carolina base shared additional details about the circumstances of Private Connor J. McGurran’s death earlier this week, a spokesperson for the fort said officials will gather for a complete review of the Minnesota National Guard recruit’s enlistment and training to see if anything was overlooked throughout the process.
McGurran had reported to Fort Jackson for basic combat training in October, according to a statement released Thursday afternoon by the Minnesota National Guard. Patrick Jones, public affairs officer with the fort, said McGurran had participated in a field training exercise Tuesday before being found unresponsive at wake-up call Wednesday morning.
“A couple of weeks before they graduate, they have a field problem in which they go out and conduct numerous activities which they’ve been trained on for weeks,” he explained. “He was in the field. We sleep out there in tents and everything … They turned in for the evening and at wake-up is when he was discovered to be unresponsive.”
According to the National Guard’s release, McGurran was then immediately transported to Providence Hospital in Columbia where he was pronounced dead by medical authorities. Jones said officials at Fort Jackson have not yet received autopsy results, and an investigation into his death continues.
In a statement posted to Facebook Thursday afternoon, the fort’s commanding general asked other soldiers to keep McGurran and his family in their thoughts and prayers.
“The unexpected loss of a Soldier in training is not unprecedented, but remains rare,” wrote Brig. Gen. Milford H. Beagle, Jr. “Unfortunately, this event follows too closely to our last Basic Training Combat Soldier death stemming from a medical emergency on September 20, 2019.”
According to Jones, last fall’s death of Private Andrew McLean had to do with a preexisting medical condition. The North Carolina native was 18 years old.
Fort Jackson trains roughly 10,000 future Army and National Guard soldiers each day, according to Jones, totaling around 75,000 per year. Nationwide, this accounts for more than half of all new recruits going through basic training.
“Numbers-wise, it’s not a very big percentage,” said Jones, of fatalities at the fort. “But one is still too many.”
According to a congressional report from last May, 73% of active-duty military deaths since 2006 occurred in circumstances unrelated to war. Roughly 40% of these 12,116 casualties were due to accident; almost a third of them were self-inflicted and nearly 25% were due to illness or injury. Over 90% of these fatalities happened in the U.S. Approximately 16% involved vehicles.
Following McGurran’s death at Fort Jackson, Jones said the base will convene a fatality review board, which will consist of roughly 18 to 24 medical personnel and officers from the chain of command.
“From the time he was at the recruiting station … on into reception and basic training, they look at everything,” said Jones. “They can look at that soldier’s history to say, ‘OK, did we miss something?’”
According to Beagle’s statement on social media, investigation results will be provided first to McGurran’s relatives and then to the public “as the family chooses.”
Captain Melanie Nelson, public affairs officer with the Minnesota National Guard, declined to comment on McGurran’s recruitment at this time.
“He was a wonderful young man,” she said, adding that the family has expressed they are not yet ready to tell his story.
According to the agency’s statement, McGurran received his GED this past fall and began training with the Arden Hills Recruit Sustainment Program after enlisting in September and before reporting to Fort Jackson a month later. He was slated to become a Bradley fighting vehicle system maintainer.
“He was a soldier with a promising future in our organization,” said Lt. Col. Eduardo Suarez, Minnesota National Guard Recruiting and Retention Commander, in the release. “We will provide every comfort to his family and the Recruiting and Retention Battalion, who are devastated by his untimely death. This is a tragic loss for the Minnesota National Guard.”