Navy punishes officers overseeing SEAL training after candidate’s death

The Navy has taken disciplinary action against three officers who oversaw Navy SEAL training earlier this year after one candidate died just hours after completing the infamous “Hell Week.”

Research released Wednesday found a 24-year-old Kyle Mullen died of acute pneumonia caused by an enlarged heart. The report details how the lack of medical attention in the hours after the grueling training delayed Mullen getting the care he needed.

The Navy has issued warning letters to Capt. Brian Drechsler, the commander of the Naval Special Warfare Center. Capt. Bradley Geary, the former commander of the Basic Training Command and senior medic.

The inquest said performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) were found among Mullen’s possessions, but specifically states they did not contribute to his death.


The Navy began testing SEAL candidates for PEDs a week after Mullen’s death. So far, nearly 1,250 candidates have been tested and 51 have been removed from training.

The SEAL training program has also implemented changes to its medical procedures, including a requirement for medical personnel to monitor candidates for 24 hours after securing “Hell Week.”

Mullen died on Friday, February 4, 2022, hours after completing “Hell Week,” which had begun the previous Sunday and consisted almost entirely of sustained physical activity, much of it in cold Pacific waters and nighttime temperatures. with only four hours of sleep in totallarge – what the Navy calls “extreme stress in a controlled environment.”

Other recruits Thursday saw Mullen fare worse than anyone else. He had severe leg swelling and was coughing and spitting up fluids. A recruit told investigators that while Mullen was trying to sleep Thursday, his breathing sounded like “gurgling water.”

By Friday morning, trainers had to give Mullen oxygen on two occasions and take him by ambulance from one location to another so he could complete “Hell Week.” After stumbling out of the surf for the last time, Mullen told other recruits how happy he was and called his family, but he was so weak he needed a wheelchair, the inquest heard.

The recruits said that before they were allowed to sleep, they were given a briefing on what to do for the next few hours as they recovered.

They said they were told that if they had a problem, they should call the doctor on duty. “We’ll see you anytime,” read the instructions, included in the report.

If it was a serious emergency, they should call 911, but were warned not to seek outside help because other doctors might not understand “Hell Week” and, seeing their physical condition, could treat them.

Recruits who were waiting for their own SEAL course to begin and had no medical experience were assigned to watch them at their barracks, according to the report. A recruit told investigators that medical staff did a sweep of the barracks around noon to check that everyone was accounted for, but did not appear to check on anyone’s medical condition.

During the afternoon, Mullen’s condition worsened – his skin had turned blue and he was spitting up blood.

Recruits watching Mullen and his classmates said they called the paramedic, who told them to call 911 if it was a serious emergency. But Mullen insisted he did not want to go to hospital because he feared he would be sent back to another class and have to go through “Hell Week” again.

One of the recruits in charge of watching Mullen told investigators he thought they should have taken Mullen to the hospital anyway because he wasn’t “well.”

When the recruits finally called 911, it was too late to revive Mullen.

Wednesday’s release is not the last investigation into Mullen’s death. A broader investigation into the circumstances surrounding his death is underway and will examine the safety measures in place, the qualifications of instructors and medical providers, and the “prevalence” of PED use in Mullen’s classroom.

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