(NewsNation) — The mother of a sailor who died last year during Navy SEAL training says she’s glad the branch is admitting its mistakes, but she still wants more disciplinary action for the officers who were in command.
Regina Mullen’s son, Kyle, died of pneumonia in February 2022 after completing the Navy’s Hell Week test that pushes candidates to their limits during Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training.
An investigation launched after her son’s death found that the program is plagued by inadequate oversight, failures in medical care and use of performance-enhancing drugs, according to the report released Thursday.
“I’m glad that they admitted it because it validates what I was saying,” Mullen said Friday on “Elizabeth Vargas Reports.” “I’m just shocked that no one’s in trouble yet.”
The nearly 200-page report compiled by the Naval Education and Training Command concluded flaws in the medical program had the “most direct impact” on the health and well-being of recruits, “specifically” Seaman Kyle Mullen.
The investigation also found “strong indicators” of performance-enhancing drugs use by “some” SEAL candidates. It recommends establishing a testing program to catch drug users and an education program “to build of culture of integrity and moral character.”
On Feb. 4, 2022, Kyle Mullen had made it through Hell Week, a five-day gauntlet of extreme physical and mental conditioning all SEAL candidates must complete. He called his mother after it was over, and she said he “sounded awful,” out of breath and unable to form his words.
“All the men knew how bad he was because he couldn’t walk,” Regina Mullen said.
The report says Kyle Mullen was taken to his barracks in a wheelchair after he got off the phone with his mom. Earlier in the day, he was observed coughing up blood and was administered oxygen at least twice.
At the barracks, Mullen “suffered worsening respiratory issues” but declined to go to the hospital. Eventually 911 was called, and he was pronounced dead at the hospital.
The report notes that special operations forces are routinely required to carry out high-risk military operations, and thus require demanding training. But it said SEAL instructors in recent years appeared to focus on weeding out candidates, rather than teaching or mentoring.
Compounding that problem, the report said, is that candidates were often reluctant to seek medical care because it would be seen as weak and could get them removed from the course or delay their completion.
“It’s terrible that this goes on in this country,” she said of how her son and others were treated during training. “It would be considered war crimes if it happened to soldiers of another country.”
A separate report released in October by Naval Special Warfare Command concluded that Mullen, from Manalapan, New Jersey, died “in the line of duty, not due to his own misconduct.”
Capt. Brad Geary, commanding officer of Naval Special Warfare’s Basic Training Command, and an unnamed senior medical officer were also issued administrative “non-punitive” letters.
Regina Mullen wants more serious disciplinary action taken.
“The Navy needs to be in the adult room (and deliver) swift, harsh punishment,” she said. “Court martials.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.