HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - Officials with the Mississippi National Guard and U.S. Army have released more details about the training exercise at Camp Shelby that ended with 23 paratroopers being sent to the hospital Wednesday night.
Camp Shelby commander Col. Bobby Ginn said the exercise involved around 650 paratroopers with the 4th Brigade of the 25th Infantry Division jumping from multiple aircraft into two landing zones. Ginn said 87 of the soldiers landed off course in a wooded area where many of them got hung up in pine trees.
Col. Christopher Landers, commander of the 4/25 IBCT, said the paratroopers missed their intended landing zone by 200 to 400 yards. Landers said crews worked until 8 a.m. Thursday to get all of the stranded troops out of the trees and they were still working into the afternoon to retrieve equipment from the area.
Of the 87 soldiers who landed off course, 23 were sent to Forrest General Hospital to be treated for injuries. Four remain hospitalized as of Thursday afternoon.
Dr. Duncan Donald, Trauma Medical Director for FGH, said most of the injuries consisted of back pain and significant fractures, but no injuries were life-threatening. Donald said he expects the troopers to recover and be able to return to active duty within the next three months.
“I’d like to thank all the emergency, medical and rescue personnel who were on standby prior to the jump as well as the additional first responders who came to help,” said Landers. “The response was overwhelming.”
Ginn said the families of all injured personnel have been notified of the accident. He added that the training stopped immediately after the mishap, but Landers said the exercise would resume within the next 24 hours.
Now, military officials are working to determine what led to the troops landing off course.
On Wednesday night, Ginn said wind caused the soldiers to miss their landing zone. During a news conference Thursday, Landers said the cause of the accident has yet to be determined. He added that it could take months to complete the investigation.
According to Landers, injuries are not uncommon during airborne training exercises, but to have that many soldiers hurt is out of the ordinary.
“Injuries on jumps are fairly commonplace. To have this number is relatively rare. In my career, I’ve seen it about a half a dozen times where this many jumpers end up in the trees,” said Landers.
John Pennell, Chief of Media Relations for U.S. Army Alaska, said 3,000 troops from the 4/25 IBCT are on a special month-long training exercise at Camp Shelby called “Operation Arctic Anvil.” Landers said Wednesday’s accident will not alter the unit’s training plans.