Three Naval Special Warfare Command officers are facing admiral’s mast disciplinary hearings in connection to the death of a SEAL trainee last year, officials have confirmed.
Capt. Brian Dreschler, Capt. Bradley Geary and Cmdr. Erik Ramey are all facing the nonjudicial punishment, although command officials declined to say when the hearings could take place or which charges the three are facing, citing Navy practices that generally prohibit the release of such administrative records.
Each officer held a senior position in the SEAL training process on Feb. 4, 2022, when SEAL candidate Seaman Kyle Mullen, 24, died of acute pneumonia. He and his Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) class had just wrapped up the “Hell Week” portion of their training at the Naval Special Warfare Center in Coronado, California.
Dreschler was the Naval Special Warfare Center’s commanding officer at the time, while Geary led the center’s Basic Training Command and Ramey was the center’s head medical official.
The three, who had previously received “nonpunitive” letters in connection to Mullen’s death, were notified last week that they face nonjudicial punishment, according to the command.
Under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, service members can reject nonjudicial punishment and demand trial by court-martial.
It remained unclear Tuesday if the three officers had made a decision to accept or reject the admiral’s mast, but officials confirmed that all three remain at the command in different roles.
Geary’s civilian attorney, Jason Wareham, said in an email Tuesday that his client “remains fully committed to bringing forth the truth,” and added that they “continue to assess the dubious legal and factual basis” for the disciplinary action.
“When all the key facts emerge, the Navy’s improper actions will be exposed,” said Wareham, who alleged that his client is “being scapegoated as part of a larger scheme to cover up massive failures and abuses of power at the highest levels of the Navy.”
Jeremiah Sullivan, the civilian attorney representing Ramey, did not respond to a request for comment by Navy Times’ deadline Tuesday, and emails to the Navy’s Defense Service Office seeking comment from Dreschler’s Navy-appointed defense attorney were not returned.
Rolling Stone first reported the admiral’s mast proceedings approved by Rear Adm. Keith Davids, the head of Naval Special Warfare Command.
A Naval Education and Training Command investigation into Mullen’s BUD/S class, released this spring, states that the training program was plagued by widespread failures in medical care, poor oversight and the use of performance-enhancing drugs, which increased the risk of injury and death to those seeking to become SEALs.
Medical oversight and care were “poorly organized, poorly integrated and poorly led and put candidates at significant risk,” the nearly 200-page NETC report concluded.
Geary has in recent months sat down with multiple national media outlets to defend himself and the special warfare community.
He told Good Morning America in June that the Navy’s probe “mischaracterizes, misrepresents and misquotes our organization and Naval special warfare,” while calling Mullen’s death a “tragedy.”
“This is one thing I agree with the report on,” he told Good Morning America. “It was a perfect storm of factors that all combined at the wrong possible moment in time and resulted in the tragic loss of Kyle.”
Mullen’s mother, Regina Mullen, criticized what she said was a lack of accountability regarding her son’s death in the Good Morning America article.
Mullen’s death and the NETC investigation into his BUD/S Class 352 shined a light on the brutal test that pushes SEAL candidates to their limits.
During the five-and-a-half day test, which involves basic underwater demolition, survival and other combat skills and tactics, sailors are allowed to sleep just twice, for two-hour periods only. It tests physical, mental and psychological strength along with leadership skills, and is so grueling that at least 50% to 60% of sailors don’t finish it.
That probe states there was no evidence of performance-enhancing drugs but that Mullen had an enlarged heart that contributed to his death. The report said, however, that he was not tested for some steroids because needed blood and urine samples were not available, and multiple vials of drugs and syringes were later found in his car.
An earlier report focused on Mullen’s death and released in October 2022 revealed that during Hell Week, Mullen was seen by medical personnel for shortness of breath and problems with his knee. He was given oxygen twice on the last morning of the test.
Classmates described Mullen coughing up pink liquid and filling a bottle with it. Another said he was in “full messed-up mode” and that while Mullen appeared to be “in good spirits” that final day, he was “in the worst medical shape out of anyone in the class.”
During the final medical checks after the test ended, his lungs were deemed “abnormal” and he went to the barracks in a wheelchair due to swelling in his legs.
The report said his condition worsened, and a medical officer on duty recommended they call 911, but that wasn’t done. According to the report, candidates are often wary of going to a hospital or seeking outside medical help because it could get them disqualified from the class. About 90 minutes later, as he continued to get worse, they did call 911.
The report said fire department personnel found him nonresponsive. They performed CPR and took him to the hospital, but he was declared dead a short time later.
Command officials have said that training reforms have since been implemented.
“Our effectiveness as the Navy’s maritime special operations force necessitates demanding, high-risk training,” Davids said in a statement this spring. “While rigorous and intensely demanding, our training must be conducted with an unwavering commitment to safety and methodical precision.”
He said the command will “honor Seaman Mullen’s memory by ensuring that the legacy of our fallen teammate guides us towards the best training program possible for our future Navy SEALs.”
The Associated Press’s Lolita Baldor contributed to this report.
Geoff is a senior staff reporter for Military Times, focusing on the Navy. He covered Iraq and Afghanistan extensively and was most recently a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. He welcomes any and all kinds of tips at firstname.lastname@example.org.