Dying in ‘Hell Week’ Highlights Hazard of Navy SEAL Choice Programs

  • A Navy SEAL candidate died after finishing the choice course’s “Hell Week” in early February.
  • The Navy has procedures for medical emergencies, however deaths throughout SEAL coaching aren’t remarkable.
  • The dangers of their coaching mirror the hazard of the missions they’re tasked with, present and former SEALs say.

On February 4, US Navy Seaman Kyle Mullen died after finishing “Hell Week,” a notoriously troublesome a part of the coaching for US Navy SEAL candidates. One other candidate was hospitalized on the identical day.

In a press launch, Naval Particular Warfare Command stated that Mullen and his Primary Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) classmates efficiently accomplished Hell Week earlier that day and that he “was not actively coaching on the time of his demise.”

The command stated that Mullen’s reason behind demise was unknown and an investigation was underway. The unlucky occasion once more highlights the inherent risks of particular operations, the place the danger of demise or critical harm is current each on the battlefield and in coaching.

Dying in Hell Week

Navy SEAL candidates participate in an exercise during "Hell Week."

Navy SEAL candidates throughout a Hell Week train.

Richard Schoenberg/Corbis by way of Getty Photographs

Hell Week might be essentially the most well-known a part of any special-operations coaching regime on the earth.

The six-day ordeal, starting on Sunday night and ending Friday morning, normally takes place on the finish of First Part of BUD/S. Throughout this era, college students’ bodily and psychological endurance is rigorously examined with runs totaling over 200 miles, hours of bodily coaching, and swims within the frigid waters of the Pacific.

Throughout all BUD/S evolutions, there may be an ambulance on standby close to the scholars within the occasion of a medical emergency. Navy SEAL corpsmen are prepared to supply medical help if wanted. Insider understands that instructors and workers work collectively intently and college students undergo a medical test each day throughout Hell Week.

“All instructors are completely educated in threat and harm prevention throughout Hell Week. There are medical personnel current 24 hours a day and medical doctors conduct common full-body checks periodically to guage for


, cuts which are contaminated, and indicators of illness,” Bob Adams, a retired Navy SEAL officer and physician, advised Insider.

Following 12 years within the SEAL Groups, Adams went to medical faculty and have become an Army physician and ultimately the command surgeon of the Army’s elite Delta Pressure. Adam’s particulars the unimaginable pressures that Hell Week places on the physique in his 2017 ebook, “Six Days of Inconceivable: Navy SEAL Hell Week — A Physician Appears to be like Again.”

navy seals hell week

BUD/S college students prepare with logs throughout Hell Week, in Coronado, June 22, 2003.


Hell Week can depart lasting results on those that undergo it, Adams stated.

“Of biggest curiosity to me as a health care provider wanting again—our core physique temperatures at occasions dropped beneath 90 levels (98.6 is regular), and now a few years later, all of us have core physique temperatures beneath regular,” Adams added. “This issues as a result of our mind (the hypothalamus) was completely reset to a decrease ‘regular,’ and when exercising and even sleeping, our sweating is bigger than others because the physique tries to chill itself to the brand new set level.”

Navy SEAL college students are geared to beat adversity and push by way of, typically towards odds and motive.

“It’s within the BUD/S mentality to ‘suck up the ache’ and transfer on along with your job. College students are inspired, and infrequently compelled by the realities of the coaching regime, to cover or cope with accidents whereas in coaching,” a former Navy SEAL officer advised Insider.

These weren’t “life-threatening accidents,” the previous officer stated, “however pneumonia, damaged legs, ankles, arms, what have you ever, are taking place, and the coaching is just not stopping due to them, so college students who don’t wish to get rolled again and repeat the coaching need to push by way of.”

A harmful career

Navy SEAL BUD/S Hell Week

SEAL candidates throughout BUD/S coaching in Coronado, January 23, 2018.

US Navy/PO1 Abe McNatt

The dangers does not finish with Hell Week. In Second Part, college students spend most of their time within the pool studying the fundamentals of fight diving.

It is a traumatic time. The “Pool Competence” occasion on the finish of Second Part sometimes forces a number of college students in every class to start out over or drop out. Shallow-water blackouts are frequent all through Second Part. In Third Part, college students get to deal with dwell ammunition and explosives whereas sleep-deprived.

“You may be colder, hungrier, and extra drained within the [SEAL] Groups than in BUD/S — far more,” a former enlisted Navy SEAL advised Insider.

“College students will hear that rather a lot throughout coaching however you do not actually imagine it — how are you going to fathom being colder once you’ve simply spent 10 minutes within the freezing Pacific in the midst of the night time and you need to actually pie your self to get slightly heat? However it’s true and correct. Life within the [SEAL] Groups sucks far more than BUD/S,” the previous enlisted SEAL stated.

That is the second deadly coaching incident for the Naval Particular Warfare group in 4 months. In November, Cmdr. Brian Bourgeois, commanding officer of SEAL Group 8, died of accidents he suffered throughout a nighttime fast-rope train in Virginia Seaside.

For the Navy SEAL group, coaching deaths aren’t frequent, however they don’t seem to be uncommon.

“On the finish of the day, it’s a harmful career. Coaching for it’s harmful and doing it’s harmful, and they’re harmful as a result of the calls for and mission-sets are excessive,” the previous SEAL officer stated.

SEALs are the devoted maritime element for US Particular Operations Command and are those referred to as on when there is a maritime contingency, the officer added. “There is no such thing as a room for error or failure downrange. So the coaching have to be arduous.”

Stavros Atlamazoglou is a protection journalist specializing in particular operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (nationwide service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins College graduate.