Kyle Mullen died of pneumonia hours after completing 'Hell Week' at BUD/S, the selection course for Navy SEAL candidates. US Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Abe McNatt.
The Navy has launched a major review of the infamously difficult SEAL selection course, known as BUD/S, The New York Times reported. Navy officials have tasked an admiral with no ties to the special warfare community to investigate the program’s curriculum, medical procedures, and accusations of widespread drug use among students.
The investigation was ordered by outgoing vice chief of naval operations Adm. William K. Lescher, the Times reported, who ordered a report within 30 days.
The investigation appears to be the latest fallout in the death of Kyle Mullen, a former college football team captain who died at BUD/S — short for Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training — in February at the end of Hell Week, the traditional five-day crux of the program that keeps students awake and training for five straight days with almost no rest.
Mullen completed Hell Week but collapsed within hours with pneumonia. He filled a 32-ounce bottle with bloody spit in the hours after training, according to an autopsy obtained by Coffee or Die Magazine.
BUD/S training. US Navy photo.
Mullen’s mother, Regina. a New Jersey nurse, has been a vocal critic of the Navy since his death, giving TV and media interviews accusing BUD/S medical staff of ignoring her son’s medical condition and blaming leaders at BUD/S for causing his death. She told Coffee or Die that, in the days following her son’s death, she met the then-commander of BUD/S, Capt. Bradley Geary, in a hotel lobby in San Diego.
“I called him a murderer to his face,” she said.
The Times report details a major drop in the pass rate at BUD/S, from the historical norm of about 25% to half of that since early 2021 or even, in a recent class, 7%. The drop in graduation rate, the Times said, coincides with the arrival of Geary and a tougher, less-constrained approach to training that he brought in.
Students at BUD/S are submerged by waves during “surf torture.” US Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Abe McNatt.
In an August report by the Times, several former SEAL candidates or their family members detailed accusations of widespread use of performance-enhancing drugs at BUD/S.
However, Regina Mullen said she was told — and the Times appears to have confirmed — that a final report on Mullen’s death was due in August, but it was rejected by Navy officials who believed that it left blame for Mullen’s death on the candidate with little or no accountability for BUD/S officials who did not recognize or properly treat his medical conditions.
The report was scrapped “after top Navy leaders indicated that they thought the report placed too much blame on the sailor and not enough on failures in the SEALs,” the Times reported.
Matt White is a former senior editor for Coffee or Die Magazine. He was a pararescueman in the Air Force and the Alaska Air National Guard for eight years and has more than a decade of experience in daily and magazine journalism.
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