Navy SEAL deaths: 3 officers reprimanded in death of trainee Kyle Mullen, candidate who died after ‘Hell Week’ training

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Navy Special Warfare Command has reprimanded three officers in connection with the February death of a SEAL candidate who collapsed and died of acute pneumonia just hours after completing the week’s grueling test from hell, according to Navy officials and a new report.

Commanders did not directly blame officers for the death of SEAL candidate Kyle Mullen, and no one was fired. But a Navy investigation into his death has sparked a number of changes to the way sailors are monitored during the physically and mentally grueling test, and prompted the command to seek out and conduct extensive testing for life-enhancing drugs. performance.

A new report released by the command concluded that Mullen, 24, of Manalapan, New Jersey, died “in the line of duty, and not due to his own misconduct.” He said he had an enlarged heart which also contributed to his death, which came shortly after successfully completing Hell Week, the five-and-a-half-day test that comes during the first phase of assessment for SEAL candidates striving to enter the Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL, or BUD/S class. The training took place at the Naval Special Warfare Training Center in Coronado, California.

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The medical examiner’s autopsy report found there was no evidence of performance-enhancing drugs in Mullen’s system and they were not a contributing cause of death.

Staff and medical professionals who reviewed the results said in the report that several substances commonly used as performance-enhancing drugs — testosterone, anastrobol and sildenafil — were found in Mullen’s belongings. And they said such substances could have been a contributing factor in his death, including his enlarged heart.

The autopsy did not include blood tests or urinalysis, which may show indications of banned substances.

However, the potential use of banned drugs by any SEAL candidate is forcing the Navy to deal with what many see as a persistent problem, especially among special operations forces and service members attempting to take courses in rigorous training and evaluation. Some additional testing for drugs is already underway as part of the course, and as of September 22, 37 staff had been removed from the training program as a result.

The banned drugs have become a key part of the ongoing investigation by the Naval Education and Training Command, or NETC. Education Command takes a closer look at the entire SEAL training course, including policies, procedures, and proper oversight by commanders.

The NETC will also review personnel decisions to determine whether they were adequate or whether action should be taken against others in command.

Officials say “non-punitive” administrative letters were delivered to Captain(N) Brian Drechsler, who is the commodore of the Naval Special Warfare Center; Capt. Brad Geary, commander of Naval Special Warfare Basic Training Command; and an unnamed chief medical officer.

Drechsler and the doctor remain in the same jobs they held at the time of Mullen’s death. Geary moved up to a staff position, in a move that was planned before the death.

“Our deepest sympathy extends to Sailor Mullen’s family and friends during this difficult time,” said Rear Admiral Keith Davids, chief of Naval Special Warfare Command. “NSW remains committed to transparency and we welcome the opportunity to review our assessment and selection programs, and help us look for other ways to improve and prevent this kind of tragedy from happening. reproduce.”

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He added, “Kyle’s death will not be in vain.”

His death, instead, shone a light on the brutal Hell Week that pushes SEAL candidates to their limits. The test involves basic underwater demolition, survival and other combat tactics, and sailors only get two two-hour sleep periods during the event. It tests physical, mental and psychological strength as well as leadership skills, and is so grueling that at least 50% to 60% do not complete it.

The 320-page report includes a number of interviews with Mullen’s classmates, who described his deteriorating health over the last two days of the test. Classmates interviewed said they knew nothing about Mullen’s use of steroids or performance-enhancing drugs.

Mullen started BUD/S in July 2021, but suffered heat stroke and left the class to recover. He was allowed to join another class, went through orientation and started again in January 2022.

The report states that during his first week classmates said he had breathing problems and they thought it was swimming-induced pulmonary edema, which occurs when fluid builds up in the lungs. The breathing issues were not reported to medical staff, according to the report, and classmates said he appeared to be recovering.

During the Hell Week test, according to the report, Mullen was seen by medical personnel for shortness of breath and knee issues. He received oxygen twice on the last morning of the test.

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Classmates described Mullen spitting out pink liquid and filling a bottle with it. Another said he was in “completely screwed up mode” and that while Mullen seemed “in good spirits” this past day, he was “in the worst medical shape of any student in the class”.

During final medical checks after the test was completed, his lungs were found to be “abnormal” and he traveled to the barracks in a wheelchair due to swelling in his legs.

The report says his condition worsened and a doctor on duty recommended calling 911, but it was not done. According to the report, candidates are often reluctant to go to the hospital or seek outside medical help, as this could disqualify them from the course. About 90 minutes later, as her condition worsened, they called 911.

The report says fire personnel found him unresponsive. They performed CPR and took him to the hospital, but he was pronounced dead shortly afterwards.

The reluctance of some applicants to seek more medical help is another area the Navy is addressing.

“We need to address the cultural tension between candidates’ desire to weather adversity to demonstrate courage and the need to recognize and report health information to remain medically fit for the mission,” the command said. “We need to create an environment that supports candidates and reinforces that their health and safety comes first.”

Other changes include advanced cardiology screening of SEAL candidates for heart conditions; pneumonia prevention injections; no more medical examination after the end of the week from hell; increased training on performance-enhancing drugs; and expanded training for instructors.

Copyright © 2022 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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