Soldier missing from Camp Blanding found dead

Specialist, 25, missing since Wednesday didn't return from exercise

By Corley Peel - Reporter, Jim Piggott - Reporter, Chris Parenteau - Reporter

BRADFORD COUNTY, Fla. - Alabama Army Reserve Spc. Cayln McLemore, the soldier reported missing Wednesday morning from Camp Blanding, was found dead Friday.

McLemore's death was confirmed by the Clay County Sheriff's Office.

Read original report from our news partner, news4jax.com

Investigators said the 25-year-old soldier was found dead in a wooded area, and his cause of death was undetermined.

The Sheriff's Office would reveal no further details, saying it was still an active investigation.

 

 

Multi-agency search for soldier

Until his body was found, a search for McLemore continued Friday. Investigators said the soldier got off course Wednesday during a survival training exercise at the Camp Blanding's Joint Training Center in Clay County.

"We're going to go through the night and into the day," said Sgt. Keith Smith, with the Clay County Sheriff's Office, to reporters during an earlier news briefing.

McLemore was participating in a 25-day leadership training course at Camp Blanding and was sent out Wednesday morning with dozens of classmates for a land navigation assignment, deputies said.

The exercise, which involves individual soldiers finding rally points in the woods before returning to a designated location, should only have taken a couple of hours, investigators said.

McLemore and the other soldiers were each given an MRE (meal ready to eat), a canteen of water and a map to help find their specific rally points.

When McLemore didn't return from the exercise in a timely manner, military searchers tried to find him.

Smith said the instructors who run the course told deputies that soldiers sometimes do not return on time but are always found quickly -- usually, within 30 minutes to an hour.

They called in the Sheriff's Office on Thursday after they failed to find McLemore, and the Sheriff's Office brought in resources from multiple local agencies to assist in the search.

 

Smith previously said some of McLemore's gear -- but not his canteen -- had been found, which helped to concentrate the search. He said the gear that was found included McLemore's paperwork and the navigation square meant to help him find his rally points. It was found far from the area of his checkpoints, so he likely got off course, Smith said.

“If you're dehydrating and facing those types of things, you're going to get off course a little bit," Smith said. "We all know, living down here with the extreme heat, that the conditions are very tough these last couple of days -- especially today, right now."

Smith said there was no indication that McLemore had gone AWOL. A liaison was keeping McLemore's mother, who lives in Memphis, Tennessee, updated.

 

Smith said the 1,000 acres where they concentrated the search was thick swampland, and searchers encountered wildlife, including dangerous water moccasins. The search was going on around the clock, with crews rotating because of the extreme heat and difficult terrain, which includes waist- to chest-deep water.

"We searched all day. We covered a very large area out there," Smith said at 5 p.m. Friday. "A couple of medical evacuations we had to do to today to get the guys re-energized with IVs."

The search was utilizing three helicopters, K-9 units, mounted patrols and all-terrain vehicles.

The Sheriff's Office received assistance from several agencies, including the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department, the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office, the Pasco County Emergency Management, the Baker County Sheriff’s Office and the Marion County Sheriff’s Office, to name a few.

The combination of the units totaled more than 450 men and women deployed to assist with the search.

Copyright 2018 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.