At least 10 U.S. Navy leaders, including two SEALs, could face court martial after an investigation singled them out for failures that led to the training death of SEAL candidate Kyle Mullen in 2022, CBS News reported, citing a Navy official.
“Failures across multiple systems,” including lax leadership, a “wholly inadequate” medical program and unusually high training intensity during the “Hell Week” portion of Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training created a “near perfect storm” contributing to Mullen’s death from pneumonia, Rear Adm. Peter Garvin, the commander of Naval Education and Training Command, wrote in the investigation. Officers in charge of the infamous training program and medical staff failed to notice Mullen’s deteriorating condition and did not take urgent actions needed to save Mullen, the 200-page report concluded.
Names in the report have been redacted, but the ten individuals are listed in the investigation, a Navy official told CBS News.
A Navy office is reviewing the investigation and will render an opinion on Garvin’s recommendations to hold the 10 leaders accountable, leaving it to the command to take action, CNN reported.
Mullen died “in the line of duty, not due to his own misconduct,” an October report by Naval Special Warfare command found, according to The Associated Press. (RELATED: US Navy Used Drag Queen Influencer To Attract A ‘Wide Range’ Of New Troops As Recruitment Plummets)
“Hell Week” occurs in the first phase of Navy SEAL training and is one of the most grueling training regimes in the U.S. military and typically has a 50% to 60% attrition rate, according to the AP. Seamen must complete a brutal succession of mental and physical challenges for five and a one-half days with just two, two-hour sleep opportunities.
But Capt. Brad Geary, commander of the training, racked up the intensity even further to compensate for what he perceived as the current generation’s relative softness, according to the investigation.
Geary’s supervisor, Capt. Brian Drechsler, and an unnamed senior medical officer are singled out for their failures in care and oversight, all of whom have since left their positions but were not fired, CBS News and the AP reported.
Only 21 of the program’s 58 initial attendees in Mullen’s cohort passed the tests of Hell Week, according to the investigation.
US Navy SEAL candidates in class 358 participate in “Hell Week” during Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training on Jan. 29. US Navy Special Warfare combat-craft crewman candidates in class 125 participate in “The Tour” during Basic Crewman Selection training on Jan. 30. pic.twitter.com/M80ayHnLCp
— Ryan Chan 陳家翹 (@ryankakiuchan) February 8, 2023
Mullen demonstrated unusually dire health problems throughout the training, at one point coughing up dark fluid and requiring emergency oxygen twice, the investigation found. Yet, he was pronounced “fit to train” after the brutal event, with no after-action physical examination or medical personnel assigned to monitor the trainees as they recovered in their barracks.
The report described Mullen as hesitant to call for medical assistance for fear he would be disqualified from the course, even declining to go to the hospital after experiencing breathing difficulties while recovering. Hours later, he was pronounced dead of acute pneumonia upon a delayed arrival at the nearest hospital.
Medical oversight of the future SEALs was “poorly organized, poorly integrated and poorly led and put candidates at significant risk,” according to the investigation.
Mullen’s death might have been prevented had medical oversight been more robust, the investigation found.
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