One year after the training death of SEAL candidate Kyle Mullen, a harsh spotlight remains on the Navy’s elite special force assigned to perform America’s most daring military missions. SEALs are a carefully selected group of combatants, but now the methods of forging this elite group are being widely questioned.
In the year since Mullen’s tragic death, the Naval Criminal Investigation Service (NCIS), the Navy’s law enforcement agency, has not completed its investigation. An administrative investigation by the Naval Special Warfare Command (NSWC) did cause changes in medical protocols and practices for Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training for all SEAL candidates.

Meanwhile, some members of Congress, and especially the news media, have pointed a finger and castigated the SEAL program. Any organization that requires its members to perform under the most extreme and stressful conditions one can endure will likely suffer some flaws. Despite their legendary status, SEALs are human, not superhuman. Continuous review and wise reforms are essential to safeguard and improve any program.

Kyle Mullen, US Navy Photo


But lost in today’s debate over the SEALs, are two questions.

Why does the United States need a Navy SEAL program? How to prepare the few best warriors to carry out the necessary and incredibly demanding assignments?

As a former Navy SEAL (BUD/S Class 115), and former NCIS agent, I can assure you regardless of the outcome of the Mullen death investigation the BUD/S training program is vitally important to our nation’s security, and lessening the program’s rigorousness will only benefit America’s enemies.

The grueling six-months training is designed to produce the physically and mentally toughest combatants. These combatants will deploy to complete the most difficult missions in the most difficult locations under the most difficult circumstances where failure is not an option.

Usually operating in small platoons, these teams cannot afford a single weak link.