Soon after a promotion to lieutenant colonel, David Petraeus moved from the office of the Chief of Staff to Fort Campbell, Kentucky, where he commanded the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault)’s 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment from 1991–1993. As battalion commander of the Iron Rakkasans in 1991, he suffered one of the more dramatic incidents in his career. He was accidentally shot in the chest during a live-fire exercise when a soldier tripped and discharged his rifle about 40 yards from where Petraeus was observing the live fire drill. Petraeus was airlifted to Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee, where he was operated on by future Senator Bill Frist. Petraeus had a laceration to a large pulmonary artery and a lacerated pulmonary vein. A small entrance wound was located in the front, right, middle of his chest with a larger exit wound that shattered his sixth rib located in the back of his rib cage. Dr. Frist put about a 12-inch incision and put his hand on the lung to apply pressure and stop the bleeding. A small part of the damaged lung was resected and the damaged rib was also resected. The blood vessels were sutured shut and the wound was closed and then Petraeus was on his way to recovery.
Petraeus asked to be released from the hospital immediately after the surgery. Dr Bill Frist denied his release at first. Petraeus then asked that at least he be sent back to a local hospital so he could be with his soldiers. The hospital released him early after he did fifty push ups without resting, just a few days after the accident.
When he returned to command, instead of cutting that soldier who accidentally shot him, he promoted the soldier to Ranger School.