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The Pentagon was scheduled to conduct an internal review into the Feb. 4 death of 24-year-old Seaman Kyle Mullen at Sharp Coronado Hospital from unknown causes, shortly after he completed Navy SEALs’ “Hell Week” training. Of course, the Navy SEALs are a culture of their own, deeply intertwined with the core of Coronado. It makes sense for the Navy to put prospective SEALs through rigorous training. SEALs are expected to perform one of the toughest jobs imaginable to keep Americans safe, and everyone knows what SEAL Team 6 did. The six-month Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training course, held at Naval Base Coronado and requiring extensive running and swimming in cold ocean water, is described by the Navy as one of the “most mentally and physically demanding training courses in the world.” At the end of the first three weeks of training comes hell week with strenuous tasks.
But Mullen’s death raises questions about whether the Navy is doing enough daily to assess the health of those going through Hell Week. Mullen is at least the sixth SEAL trainee to die since 1988. The case of the last candidate to die – Seaman James Lovelace, 21, who died in 2016 after being repeatedly dunked in a pool by a SEAL instructor – was reviewed by the county coroner and ruled a homicide. The Navy did not press charges.
Rear Admiral HW Howard III, commander of Naval Special Warfare Command in Coronado, said, “We extend our deepest condolences to the family of Seaman Mullen for their loss.” He should also have made clear his intention to ensure that it never happened again there is a case like Mullen’s. Training that leads to death should be viewed as unacceptable and not “demanding.”