More than a dozen paratroopers from the Army's 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, were injured Wednesday night at Camp Shelby Joint Forces Training Center when they missed their intendend drop zone during a training exercise.
Eighteen soldiers from the division, which is based out of Alaska, were transported to Forrest General Hospital. Four of the soldiers required further treatment, with two undergoing emergency surgery.
No life-threatening injuries were reported.
"We received some notification shortly before 9 p.m. that there had been some injuries there, with the initial reports we received saying there could be as many as 80 patients," said Dr. Duncan Donald, Forrest General's director of trauma services, during a Thursday morning press conference at the hospital. "At that point, we mobilized our mass casualty disaster program, and had tremendous response from the staff, the physicians and the support personnel to the hospital.
"We immediately ramped up and were able to accomodate a large number of patients coming in, including 10 fully functional operating rooms, fully staffed and ready for those patients. We had several nurses in the recovery room and pre-op areas and additional staff for the support services, such as pharmacy, X-ray, radiology, environmental services - all different aspects of the hospital. We estimate that we had over 200 additional staff members who arrived at the hospital to prepare for the influx of patients."
Camp Shelby commander Col. Bobby Ginn said the soldiers were injured when they parachuted from a C-130 airplane and wind blew them away from their scheduled drop zone. A report from LTC Matt Myer, commander of the 1-501, on Thursday morning said 83 jumpers had been accounted for, while four others were getting assistance from the fire department to get down from the trees.
Approximately 650 soldiers were taking part in the exercise.
“Airborne Operations all bear an inherent risk,” Ginn said. “We strive to mitigate this risk as much as possible.”
Donald said most of the injuries were sustained while the soldiers were attempting to get out of trees.
"Several of them were trying to get themselves out, and it was dark, and it was difficult to tell how high they were when they dropped to the ground," he said. "One soldier said he estimated he dropped 20 to 30 feet.
"But we expect all of them will make a full recovery and return to active duty. Forrest General is proud to be a supporter of our nation's military, and we do what we can to get our soldiers back on the front lines."
Dr. John Nelson, medical director of Forrest General's emergency department, said the hospital was notified prior to the exercise that soldiers would be on base performing potentially risky procedures.
"We were prepared and ready to flip the switch and go into a mass disaster mode," he said. "So we were aware and ready to go, but we didn't activate until we knew there were significant numbers involved.
"We talk with them and work with them very frequently. In fact, this group of soldiers that are out there now, their forward officers came in about three or four weeks ago to let us know there was going to be a significant number of soldiers, and that they were going to be doing some live exercises that may involve more injuries than usual."
Ginn said the safety precautions taken with the hospital are standard operating procedures.
“We are grateful for the overwhelming support we have received from units here on Camp Shelby as well as local first responders,” he said. “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.
“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.”