WASHINGTON — Eleven U.S. soldiers remained hospitalized Thursday evening after being injured in a series of lightning strikes during the final phase of Ranger School in the swamps of Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.
Forty Ranger students and four instructors from the Fort Benning-based Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade were evacuated from the training exercise at Eglin’s Camp Rudder. The lightning strike happened just before 5 p.m. Wednesday, said Fort Benning spokesman Christopher Warner.
The soldiers were conducting lightning-protection protocols at the time of the strike.
The nine Ranger students and two trainers are hospitalized for observation, Warner said. Other students and instructors were treated and released either Wednesday night or early Thursday. Information was not immediately available about the extent of their conditions or when they would be released.
“The Ranger students and instructors reacted and got everyone proper medical care quickly,” said Col. David Fivecoat, commander of the Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade, in a statement. “Ranger students and instructors are tough. Thirty-one students will return to training tonight and continue with increased medical monitoring as they try to earn their Ranger tab.”
The students were on the seventh day of a 10-day cycle. Those who complete the swamp phase will be awarded the coveted Ranger Tab.
The current Ranger class includes women for the first time. Two female soldiers are navigating the swamp phase after successfully completing the first two phases of Ranger school at Fort Benning and in the north Georgia mountains. The women were not involved in the incident, a spokesperson said.