HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - Nearly two dozen paratroopers are recovering from injuries they sustained when an airborne training exercise went awry Wednesday night at Camp Shelby.
Mississippi National Guard officials reported that 23 soldiers with the 4th Brigade of the 25th Infantry Division were injured when wind blew them into a group of trees during a jump exercise around 8:30 p.m.
Many of the injured soldiers were rushed to Forrest General Hospital for treatment.
Dr. Duncan Donald, Trauma Medical Director for FGH, said 18 soldiers came into the hospital’s emergency room following the accident, and four remain hospitalized as of Thursday morning. Donald added that two soldiers went through emergency surgery and are now in stable condition.
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” and more than 650 participated in Wednesday night’s exercise.
Donald said Camp Shelby contacted FGH weeks ago about the training so the hospital could prepare for the possibility of receiving more patients from the post than usual. Donald said an estimated 200 additional hospital staff were on hand after reports of the training accident came in Wednesday night.
“We train for mass casualty events, and we generally drill for those. We’ve had a drill within the last 12 months, so we were prepared with our disaster plan in place and were able to execute that,” Duncan said during a news conference Thursday morning.
Donald said most of the soldiers were taken to the hospital by ambulance, but at least one was flown in on a military helicopter. Most of the injuries consisted of back pain and significant fractures, Donald said. No life-threatening injuries were reported.
According to Donald, most of the injuries did not happen when the soldiers dropped into the trees, but rather from falls when they tried to get down. One soldier estimated he fell 20 to 30 feet to the ground.
Donald said he expects the injured paratroopers will fully recover and be able to return to active duty within the next three months.
“We are proud to be available to the people of South Mississippi in the event of such a mass casualty or disaster circumstances,” Donald said.
The 4th Brigade of the 25th Infantry Division is stationed at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage, Alaska.
Officials at Camp Shelby are planning to hold a news conference at 3 p.m. Thursday to release more details on the accident. You will be able to watch a live stream of the news conference on WDAM.com, the WDAM News app and on the WDAM Facebook page.