The Navy took disciplinary action against three officers who oversaw Navy SEAL training earlier this year when a candidate died just hours after completing the infamous “Hell Week.”
An investigation published on Wednesday found a 24-year-old man Kyle Mullen died of acute pneumonia with an enlarged heart as a contributory cause. The report details how a lack of medical observation in the hours after the grueling training delayed Mullen getting the treatment he needed.
The Navy sent warning letters to Capt. Brian Drechsler, the commanding officer of the Naval Special Warfare Center; Capt. Bradley Geary, the former commander of Basic Training Command and a chief medical officer.
The inquest found performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) were found among Mullen’s personal effects, but explicitly states they were not a factor in 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 processes, including requiring medical personnel to observe candidates for 24 hours after obtaining “week from hell.”
Mullen died on Friday, February 4, 2022, just hours after completing “Hell Week,” which had begun the previous Sunday and consisted almost entirely of uninterrupted physical activity, much of it in the cold Pacific waters and nighttime temperatures, with only four hours of total sleepI – what the Navy calls “extreme stress in a controlled environment.”
Other rookies Thursday saw Mullen doing worse than anyone. He had severe swelling in his legs and was coughing and coughing up liquids. A rookie told investigators that while Mullen was trying to take a nap on Thursday, his breathing sounded like “water gurgling.”
On Friday morning, instructors had to give Mullen oxygen twice and drive him in an ambulance from place to place so he could finish the “week from hell”. After stumbling out of the waves for the last time, Mullen told fellow recruits how happy he was and called his family, but he was so weak he needed a wheelchair, according to the inquest.
The recruits said that before they were allowed to sleep, they were given a briefing on what to do for the next few hours while recovering.
They said they were told that if they had a problem they should call the doctor on call. “We’ll see you anytime,” read the instructions, which are included in the report.
If it was a serious emergency, they should call 911, but they were warned against seeking outside help as other doctors might not understand ‘week from hell’ and, given their physical condition, could hospitalize them.
According to the report, recruits who were awaiting the start of their own SEAL class and had no medical experience were instructed to watch them in their barracks. A recruit told investigators that medical staff swept the barracks around noon to check if everyone was present, but did not appear to be checking anyone’s health.
During the afternoon, Mullen’s condition deteriorated – his skin had turned blue and he was coughing up and coughing up blood.
Recruits monitoring Mullen and his classmates said they called the doctor on duty who told them to call 911 if it was a serious emergency. But Mullen insisted he didn’t want to go to the hospital because he was afraid it would send him back to another class and have to go through “Hell Week” again.
One of the recruits tasked with monitoring Mullen told investigators he thought they should have taken Mullen to the hospital anyway because he was “not in his right mind”.
By the time the recruits finally called 911, it was too late to revive Mullen.
Wednesday’s post is not the latest inquest into Mullen’s death. A broader investigation into the circumstances surrounding his death is currently 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.