32 Soldiers Hurt In Jump

U.S. Army paratroopers on 2000 jump
Thirteen U.S. soldiers remained hospitalized Friday after hard landings during a parachute jump in southern Germany, which caused 32 troops mostly ankle, knee and leg injuries, officials said.

The most serious injury, a soldier who suffered head injuries, remained in stable condition in an intensive care unit, said Capt. Jeff Settle, a spokesman for the 7th Army Training Command at Grafenwoehr in Bavaria, where the exercise took place. Another soldier fractured his pelvis.

A total 382 soldiers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade — part of the Southern European Task Force of the U.S. Army Europe stationed in Vicenza, Italy — were involved in the training exercise Thursday evening from nine Air Force C-130 propeller-driven aircraft.

They jumped from a height of 1,200 feet, a typical altitude for combat jumps, Settle said, and they were carrying theeir full combat load — dangling about 35 to 50 pound rucksacks on a line below them. The pack hits the ground first and the soldiers release it the moment before they land.

There were no parachute malfunctions. They are triggered to automatically open when the soldiers leave the aircraft, Settle said. The 32 injured soldiers were evacuated by helicopter, he said.

The weather was clear for the jump and light winds of only six to 11 knots were blowing as the soldiers dropped onto a landing site called the "Bunker Drop Zone" — an area of rolling terrain of hard-packed dirt with sparse grass cover.

"It wasn't that the equipment malfunctioned, it wasn't that they missed the drop zone, it was just hard landings for everybody across the way," Settle said. "Soldiers who were there said pretty much it was a normal jump."

He said the soldiers were experienced, and one of the injured had done about 280 jumps. Settle said some of the hospitalized soldiers were expected to be released as soon as Friday, with most returning to duty after a week.

Their identities were not released.

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