Paratroopers injured in nighttime military exercise

Strong winds pushed jumpers into trees

By Chris Boyette, Madeline Holcombe and Dave Alsup, CNN
Copyright 2019 CNN

Several paratroopers were injured during a military training exercise at Camp Shelby in Mississippi when strong winds left them dangling from trees.

HATTIESBURG, Miss. - A military training exercise at Camp Shelby in Mississippi left at least 23 paratroopers injured after they missed their landing spot by as much as 400 yards, A US Army colonel said.

Members of the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division out of Alaska were conducting night jumps late Wednesday at Camp Shelby Joint Forces Training Center, said 25th Infantry spokesperson Cpt. Ashley Sangster.

Three aircraft were operating near two jump sites in a military exercise, Sangster said.

The training exercise is on hold and may resume Friday as the Army investigates the cause of the accident, Col. Christopher Landers said.

It's possible human error played a role, Landers said at a press conference Thursday. Spotters with night vision goggles were on the ground, communicating with the jump teams.

Earlier, Camp Shelby commander Col. Bobby Ginn told CNN affiliate WDAM that wind had blown them off course, but Landers said it hasn't been determined that weather was a factor.

The injured were treated at Forrest General Hospital in Hattiesburg, and four are still hospitalized, Landers said.

The Army searched the wooded area where 87 members of the Alaska-based unit landed until 8 a.m. Thursday, Landers said. In the end, all were accounted for.

It was "all hands on deck" to get soldiers out of the trees, post officials said.

Some soldiers suffered limb injuries from hard landings, but none of the injuries is life-threatening, Sangster said.

Wednesday was the start of a 10-day training exercise with 650 soldiers, the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division said in a Facebook post.

"Airborne Operations all bear an inherent risk. We strive to mitigate this risk as much as possible," the team said on Facebook. "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."

Camp Shelby is a military post located at the southern boundary of Hattiesburg, covering more than 134,000 acres.

Paratroopers with the 25th Infantry Division left home in Alaska for Camp Shelby "with minimal notice on an Emergency Deployment exercise," a US Army recruiting battalion, @GoArmyMidwest, tweeted Tuesday.

The Alaska paratroopers were playing the role of an enemy force in the exercise, Landers said, taking on a local guard unit. The military is planning a town hall meeting at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage to brief their families, the colonel said.

The 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division this week has posted many videos to its official Facebook page, documenting paratroopers training at Camp Shelby.

CNN's Dave Alsup contributed to this report.

The-CNN-Wire ™ & © 2019 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.