Navy leadership has ordered an investigation into “the broader circumstances” of SEAL basic training following the death of a candidate earlier this year and recent media reports that raise questions about the rigors of Basic Underwater Demolition SEAL — or BUD/S — training, as well as the steps sailors are willing to take to get through.
The Navy investigation into the BUD/S process follows a separate probe into the Feb. 4 death of Seaman Kyle Mullen, 24, at the end of Hell Week that raised further questions about the brutal training regimen, according to the sea service.
“Senior Navy leaders have initiated a separate investigation to look at the broader circumstances that were, in part, raised by Mullen’s death,” a Navy official said in a statement Monday. “We cannot provide an exact date as to when these investigations will be completed, but the Navy remains committed to transparency and ensuring the final reports are thorough, accurate, impartial, and that confidence and credibility are maintained throughout the entire process.”
The New York Times broke news of the BUD/S investigation on Friday, reporting that it had been directed by then-Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. William Lescher, who ended his tenure as the Navy’s number-two officer last week.
The Times reports that an admiral from outside of Naval Special Warfare Command is spearheading the assessment.
The Times also reported that Lescher’s letter ordering the investigation was dated Aug. 31, the day after publication of a Times investigation into Mullen’s death and the general brutality of SEAL Hell Week, a five-and-a-half-day gauntlet of nonstop physical training and hypothermia, with the barest minimum of food, warmth or rest.
That Times investigation also reported a pattern of SEAL candidates and instructors ignoring illness or injury during BUD/S, as well as students using performance-enhancing drugs to get through the course.
While the investigation into Mullen’s death has not been made public, the Times reports that the sailor completed Hell Week, only to lie down on the floor of his room and die a few hours later.
According to the Times, Mullen was coughing up blood and his lungs were full of fluid, but instructors allowed him to continue.
While his official cause of death was bacterial pneumonia, Mullen’s family told the Times they believe the BUD/S course and its incessant physical demands ultimately killed the sailor and that he wasn’t properly monitored or hospitalized.
Geoff is a senior staff reporter for Military Times, focusing on the Navy. He covered Iraq and Afghanistan extensively and was most recently a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. He welcomes any and all kinds of tips at firstname.lastname@example.org.