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Who was Kyle Mullen? Former football star identified as tragic Navy SEAL candidate

Kyle Mullen was taken to Sharp Coronado Hospital in Coronado, California, after displaying 'symptoms', where he died
Kyle Mullen played football for both Yale University and Monmouth University (Jullissa C Perez/Facebook)
Kyle Mullen played football for both Yale University and Monmouth University (Jullissa C Perez/Facebook)

A Navy SEAL candidate who died after completing 'Hell Week' has been identified as Kyle Mullen, a 24-year-old from Manalapan, New Jersey. A spokesperson for the Navy said that at the time of his death, Mullen was not actively training. He was taken to Sharp Coronado Hospital in Coronado, California, after displaying 'symptoms' following the brutal training. The cause of his death is unknown at present and an investigation is underway. Another candidate was hospitalized following the training. 

"We extend our deepest sympathies to Seaman Mullen's family for their loss," said Rear Adm. H.W. Howard III, commander, Naval Special Warfare Command. "We are extending every form of support we can to the Mullen family and Kyle's BUD/S classmates."


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Who was Kyle Mullen?

Former Navy SEAL candidate Kyle Mullen played football for both Yale University and Monmouth University. In 2019, he had helped the Hawks win a conference championship in 2019. "We are all saddened by the unfortunate passing of Kyle Mullen," Monmouth head coach Kevin Callahan said in a statement. "As a member of our 2019 championship team, he will be remembered not just as a excellent player, but also as an excellent person and a great teammate."

Mullen also played basketball at Manalapan High School. "He was highly motivated on the field, but his maturity, intelligence, and concern for his fellow teammates is what stands out about Kyle," Callahan said.


Taylor Elizabeth, who appears who be a close friend of Mullen, took to Facebook to pay a tribute to him. "My life long friend. I can’t believe you have left us. I am in disbelief knowing that we’ll never be able to hug you or laugh with you again. The sweetest most loving and full of life human I’ve ever met. I know that any one who knew you held a special place for you in their heart. Your dedication and hard work showed through in every single thing that you have ever accomplished and you never complained about it. While most people would give up, you never did. You always pushed through, with that huge infectious smile on your face. The memories we share start from when we were little, where happiness was the only thing we really knew. You and Tj and hunter and I used to laugh till our tummies hurt. I’ll forever cherish every moment we got to spend together. I love you, brother. Rest easy, Kyle Mullen," Elizabeth wrote, sharing a few pictures. 


"With the 44 yard line marked (kyles football number) we celebrated his life. With a beautiful American flag in the center, we had a memorial for his life. Joey, Simon and I put 4 flags in the ground, representing our “Core 4.” (Joey Mendez Simon Bublis myself, and Kyle)," Jayson Rybak, an acquaintance of Mullen, wrote on Facebook.


What is 'Hell Week'?

Mullen had reportedly completed Hell Week, which generally takes place during the fourth week of part of Phase 1 of Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training. The exhausting training is a "'five-and-a-half days of cold, wet, brutally difficult operational training on fewer than four hours of sleep,' the Navy says, and candidates 'run more than 200 miles and do physical training for more than 20 hours per day."

The Navy produces around 200 to 250 SEALs a year. SEAL candidates are required to go through 24 weeks of training throughout five phases, which include a physical training test, obstacle courses, extensive swimming and running, combat diving, land warfare training and other tests that a physically very difficult. A number of candidates are unable to even get past Phase 1, also called Stage 3,  and a 'significant' number start dropping out. "Hell Week is the ultimate test of a man’s will and the class’s teamwork," the Navy said.

According to the Navy SEALS website, "Hell Week tests physical endurance, mental toughness, pain and cold tolerance, teamwork, attitude, and your ability to perform work under high physical and mental stress, and sleep deprivation. Above all, it tests determination and desire. On average, only 25% of SEAL candidates make it through Hell Week, the toughest training in the U.S. Military."

"Trainees are constantly in motion; running, swimming, paddling, carrying boats on their heads, doing log PT, sit-ups, push-ups, rolling in the sand, slogging through mud, paddling boats and doing surf passage. Being still can be just as challenging, when you’re standing interminably in formation, soaking wet on the beach, or up to your waist in the water, with the cold ocean wind cutting through you. Mud covers uniforms, hands, faces – everything but the eyes," the website says. "The sand chafes raw skin and the salt water makes cuts burn. Students perform evolutions that require them to think, lead, make sound decisions, and functionally operate when they are extremely sleep-deprived, approaching hypothermia, and even hallucinating. While trainees get plenty to eat, some are so fatigued that they fall asleep in their food. Others fall asleep while paddling boats and have to be pulled out of the water by teammates." The website adds that "Safety is always adhered to" during the training. 

Other cases

The Navy SEALS currently comprises 10 Seal Teams. It was all men until 2021 when the first woman completed the training. SEAL Team 6 is known to have killed Osama Bin Laden. It is known as the most highly trained force in the US military.

A well-known case is that of Derek Lovelace, who drowned during the pool exercise in 2016. Lovelace, who was struggling to tread water in full gear, was pushed underwater at least twice, following which he lost consciousness and died. He was the fifth candidate to lose consciousness in the pool exercise back at the time.

The San Diego Medical Examiner ruled Lovelace's death a homicide, but after the Navy later decided not to pursue criminal charges. Back at the time, an autopsy result showed he had an enlarged heart and an abnormal coronary artery, which could have been factors that contributed to his death. The abnormal artery was associated with sudden cardiac death.

Recently, a Navy SEAL commander died after he was critically injured training in Virginia. 43-year-old Brian Bourgeois lost his life after he fast-roped down from a helicopter.