HATTIESBURG, Miss. (AP) — At least 22 soldiers were injured as hundreds parachuted onto a Mississippi military base during a night training exercise.
U.S. Army spokesman John Pennell told WDAM-TV that the paratroopers were among 650 soldiers jumping from C-130 planes Wednesday night. Some were blown off course from their intended landing zone and into a stand of pine trees. Several became entangled in the branches and had to be rescued.
“Paratroopers from across the brigade and Camp Shelby are assisting in getting others out of the trees,” Lt. Col Matt Myer, commander of 1st Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, wrote on the battalion’s Facebook page early Thursday. “All of the accounted for jumpers are being afforded access to phones to call their loved ones.”
Pennell said at least 15 of the people hurt at Camp Shelby were treated by medics, and another seven were hospitalized. Staff Sgt. John Healy said none of the injuries are considered to be life-threatening.
Camp Shelby Cmdr. Col. Bobby Ginn says the troopers belong to the 4th Brigade of the 25th Infantry Division stationed at the Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage, Alaska.
Mississippi National Guard spokeswoman Lt. Col. Deidre Smith said soldiers continued to jump into the drop zone after the injuries, with units trying to account for their members.
“Once all soldiers have been accounted for, our goal is ultimately to continue training,” Smith said in a statement. “Despite the challenges that we currently face, soldiers always place the mission first.”
Smith said the base works to reduce risks associated with airborne operations, with a nearby hospital in Hattiesburg on alert and emergency vehicles on standby at Camp Shelby.
About 3,000 troops from the Alaska base are participating in a monthlong training called “Operation Arctic Anvil.” The Mississippi base is devoted to large-scale training, with convoys of military trucks a common sight on nearby highways and military aircraft frequently seen overhead.
Pennell promised more information once a safety investigation is complete.
Paratroopers were injured during a training exercise at Camp Shelby. The Forrest County Sheriff’s Office confirms a number of soldiers were taken to Forrest General Hospital. Here is a full statement from the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division:
“At 8:00 P.M. this evening the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, United States Army Alaska, conducted an Airborne Operation on Camp Shelby Joint Forces Training Center, Hattiesburg, Miss., with approximately 650 Soldiers jumping in to begin at ten-day training exercise. We are still consolidating Soldiers on the drop zone at this time. Airborne Operations all bear an inherent risk.
We strive to mitigate this risk as much as possible. Forrest General Hospital was notified prior to the jump of the potential influx of patients and the types of injuries to be expected and emergency vehicles were on standby at Camp Shelby prior to the jump.
We are grateful for the overwhelming support that we have received from units here on Camp Shelby as well as local first responders. The entire community has come together to ensure that we are able to provide expert treatment to any Soldiers who were injured during the Airborne Operation. Confirmed injuries are not known at this time.
Once all Soldiers have been accounted for, our goal is ultimately to continue training. Despite the challenges that we currently face, Soldiers always place the mission first.”