SEAL leaders face additional punishment in wake of SEAL trainee death
Ten Navy officials could face further punishment after an investigation found numerous failures at the service's SEAL training facility in Coronado contributed to a trainee's 2022 death, according to a Navy official with knowledge of the case.
The recommendation for further review was redacted in a 200-page investigation the Navy released late Thursday afternoon on the eve of an extended holiday weekend.
Seaman Kyle Mullen, 24, died just hours after completing the grueling five-day "Hell Week" at the school in January 2022.
The investigation detailed widespread failures at the Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL school at Naval Base Coronado. Investigators found inadequate oversight, insufficient risk assessment, poor medical treatment and undetected use of performance enhancing drugs such as steroids.
Don King, a retired Navy judge and lawyer now in private practice in San Diego, said the investigation suggested that leaders at BUD/S failed to do their jobs.
"If there were individuals who should have been monitoring him or who should have been getting him the medical assistance he needed ... and they didn't perform that duty at all or they perform that duty in a negligent method, then they could be charged under (military law) with dereliction of duty," King said.
Dereliction of duty is a wide-ranging statute under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, King said. Charges under the statute could include manslaughter.
A previous investigation released last year found that Mullen had been seen coughing up blood in the days and hours leading up to his death.
Despite his poor physical condition upon completing Hell Week, Mullen was taken in a wheelchair to his barracks room. He was found unresponsive a few hours later and died at Sharp Coronado Hospital.
Further, the report released Thursday found that instructors pushed trainees beyond the traditional toughness BUD/S is known for, leading to more injuries and more sailors to quit. As fewer sailors were completing training, the school's commander at the time, Capt. Bradley Geary, attributed the drop to this generation's being less mentally tough, the investigation says.
Trainees were reluctant to seek medical treatment, afraid that they'd be dropped from training.
Mullen was diagnosed with a pulmonary edema — water accumulation in his lungs — three weeks before Hell Week began, according to a line-of-duty investigation released by the Navy in October.
Mullen also had pneumonia and an enlarged heart, according to his autopsy. He died of cardiac arrest caused by acute pneumonia, it said.
Steroids and human growth hormone was found in Mullen's belongings, which also could have contributed to his heart condition, the October report found.
The Navy did not say when the legal review of the investigation is expected to conclude.
Several of the investigation's recommended changes have been implemented at BUD/S, the Navy said, including more oversight and random drug tests.