After a C-130 carrying 87 paratroopers missed its dropzone during a Wednesday night training jump, many troops are disputing claims it was a simple miscalculation of the wind that caused their accident.
Col. Bobby Ginn, the commanding officer at Camp Shelby, Miss. said it was the wind that blew paratroopers into a thicket of pine trees, causing the injury of as many as 32 troops; however, witnesses of the drop told the Washington Examiner the skies were calm.
One paratrooper who withheld his name from the Washington Examiner for lack of authorization to speak with the media said the skies had “the kind of calm where a flag hangs limp.”
Other soldiers said the botched jump was the fault of jump coordinators.
“Shit just didn’t line up between the jump masters in the plane and the jump masters on the ground,” a soldier said.
One of the soldiers did admit they were aimed at a very small drop zone, about half the size of a football field.
“It’s a tight zone, even in daylight,” they told the Washington Examiner.
The Wednesday training incident caused troops from the Alaska-based 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division to require multiple medical evacuations while many more troops were treated on the ground for minor injuries.
While initial reports suggested at least 22 injuries, a recent Fox News report said that number had grown to 32, with 18 of them requiring hospitalization.
A statement from the 1st Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, another unit on the base, suggested it took hours to account for all 87 of the paratroopers who jumped from the particular C-130. At least four of the paratroopers were still stuck in trees early Thursday morning.
Another soldier who identified himself to the Washington Examiner as having frequently performed parachute operations at the base suggested the mistake may have been the result of a MASSTAC (mass tactical) practice operation to demonstrate the effect of flooding the zone with paratroopers as a means of overwhelming enemy positions.
The accident occurred during a large-scale training exercise, dubbed “Arctic Anvil.” Around 650 soldiers from the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division were to have joined the exercise of roughly 3,000 total participating troops.
The training operation was reportedly meant to be the largest in Camp Shelby’s history.
A statement from the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division Facebook page appeared to acknowledge the inherent risks of such airborne training.
“Airborne Operations all bear an inherent risk. We strive to mitigate this risk as much as possible,” the statement reads. “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 on Camp Shelby prior to the jump.”
In the statement, the Alaska-based unit said it intended to carry on with training operations once all of the soldiers were accounted for.
Staff Sgt. John Healy, of the 177th Armored Brigade, told Fox News none of the injuries were life-threatening.
It is not yet if the severity of injuries sustained by those hospitalized soldiers would preclude them from rejoining the unit for the remainder of the training.