FORT CARSON, Colo. -- Capt. Jeremy Pruitt, a chaplain with the 3rd Assault Helicopter Battalion, 4th Aviation Regiment, 4th Combat Aviation Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, completed the Survival-Evasion-Resistance-Escape school earlier this winter at Fort Rucker, Alabama.
Pruitt, 45, is a proud Texas native, a family man, and has spent the last 25 years as a Southern Baptist pastor. Only two years ago, at the age of 43, Pruitt decided to serve his nation as a chaplain in the United States Army. Forty-three years of age is significantly older than most who join the Army, but age is just a number, and Jeremy has a personal mission.
"I wanted to become an Army chaplain in order to make a difference in the lives of Soldiers. My desire is to love the Lord with all that I am, and to love my Soldiers by helping pastorally through the journey of life," said Pruitt.
Before Pruitt even thought about attending SERE school, he set examples for his Soldiers to emulate.
"Chaplain Pruitt had a dream and didn't let age stop him one bit," said Staff Sgt. Summer Hickerson, brigade religious affairs noncommissioned officer, 4th Combat Aviation Brigade, 4th Infantry Division. "That's very inspirational and a great thing for Soldiers to see."
SERE school is often called the best training you wish you never had and never want to use. The school is the Army's premier survival training school, which involves Soldiers learning how to evade capture, use survival skills, implement the code of conduct, and, ultimately, return with honor in harrowing, realistic scenarios.
"I wanted to go through SERE because I'm always looking for ways to connect with my Soldiers. It gave me a chance to do what others do, and I hope, show that chaplains aren't just made for the office and to execute events, but that I serve in order to serve others," Pruitt said.
The course itself is secretive, constantly changing and requiring students to sign a nondisclosure agreement that prohibits communication regarding some aspects of the training. What is not secret is the physical and mental brutality built into the school.
"It was one of the toughest challenges that I've ever faced. It was mentally, emotionally, and spiritually demanding. However, the experience was deeply impactful," said Pruitt. "It has helped me gain new perspective and insight into the lives of Soldiers: What they train for, how they prepare, and that being a Soldier isn't just a job, it's a sacrificial service unlike any other."
For all the pain and mental anguish, alas, there is no special designator, no ribbon, no tab, and no external glory achieved. Army special operations forces, aviators, and a few specifically selected personnel go through SERE, but rarely, if ever, will you see a chaplain. Only some classes are so lucky.
"I was able to utilize my pastoral skills and experience to support many of my classmates, especially in the most difficult parts of our training," said Pruitt.
Prospective SERE school students can ruck, run, read, and prepare for their trials ahead, but Chaplain Pruitt says, "There are some experiences in life that you simply cannot prepare for adequately. Sometimes the experience itself is just so unique that no amount of preparation does justice and you just have to walk the path yourself."
Chaplain Jeremy Pruitt is back at Fort Carson now, where he's preaching and supporting Soldiers.