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.