A change of command took place on Naval Special Warfare Center on Tuesday, May 2 relieving Captain Brian Drechsler of command approximately a year after a SEAL candidate was announced dead on February 4th, 2022 at Sharp Coronado Hospital after the completion of Hell Week. Drechsler was replaced with Capt. Mark Burke.
Captain Drechsler had received a disciplinary warning letter upon the release of an investigation report detailing that medical personnel on the scene had not made efforts to address SEAL candidate Kyle Mullen’s breathing issues. According to the report, Mullen’s breathing issues may have been linked to Swimming Induced Pulmonary Edema. Mullen’s autopsy concluded that he had died of pneumonia resulting from Strep A.
“Rear Admiral Davids made the decision to move-up the already scheduled turnover of Capt. Brian Drechsler and Capt. Mark Burke to meet the needs of the Naval Special Warfare Center and properly focus on the remaining issues identified by the Naval Education and Training Command (NETC) investigation into the NSWCEN’s supervision of Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) Class 352,” stated Naval Special Warfare Command Spokesperson Ben Tisdale.
“It is crucial that we maintain the momentum we have made to improve our training, safety, and medical oversight while balancing the need to forge the world’s greatest warriors,” said Drechsler in a message to his command.
Improvements to training could include:
- Repressing pre-dawn workouts that include heavy packs and runs
- Six hours of sleep nightly with the exception of Hell Week
- External medical auditors to monitor instructors
“We have instituted a number of risk mitigation actions including an advanced cardiology screening program that incorporates recommendations from multiple cardiologists across all service branches,” said Lt. Commander Kara Handley, public relations officer for the U.S. Naval Special Warfare Command. “This includes acquiring ECG machines with improved artificial intelligence to screen for underlying conditions which may result in sudden cardiac death.”
Investigations from October 2022 had found that Kyle Mullen had performance enhancing drugs in his system, though this was not the main contributing factor to his death. The 24-year-old recruit had endured acute pneumonia that caused him to suffer from an enlarged heart. A USNI News report mentioned that fellow SEAL candidates had noticed that Mullen was beginning to have apparent respiratory issues such as coughing up yellow fluids. One of the candidates specifically stated that Mullen’s breathing sounded like he was “gurgling water.”
“Our medical team assesses candidates’ conditions, they have the authority to remove candidates from training if deemed necessary for their recovery,” stated LCDR Handley. “Once a candidate receives proper care and is cleared by the medical team, they may resume training if symptoms resolve in a timely manner or join a different class at a later date.”
The Naval Education and Training Command will begin to take more in depth observations of the SEAL training course policies and procedures and will ensure proper oversight by commanders. Investigation results regarding these changes in BUD/S training policies and approval of overseers of the course are estimated to be released in a month or so.
Death of Navy SEAL Candidate at Coronado Boot Camp is a Black Mark on ‘Hell Week’ (video)
Navy Expands Medical Protocols in Order to Improve Safety During BUD/S