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Guard Soldier Dies During Training

An Illinois Army National Guard soldier died Friday during a routine physical fitness test.

Sgt. First Class Jerome Baker was finishing his last lap of a two-mile run when he sat down on the track.

A guard spokesman said Baker, who is from Riverdale, died of natural causes. The exact cause is under investigation.

Baker turned 29 just three days prior.

His death came as a tragic surprise to officers, who remember him as a fit, motivated non-commissioned officer.

"He cared about the soldiers, and the company, and the mission," Capt. Rose Gilroy, Baker's direct supervisor, said. "And he wanted to make sure he did the best job that he possibly could."

Baker was attending a standard required leadership course for his career. It was at Fort Custer in Augusta, Mich. The run was part of the same physical fitness test every soldier takes.

Baker was an 11-year veteran of the guard. Gilroy described him as a "family man."

The sergeant is survived by his mother and his four daughters. His funeral will be held Friday in Chicago.