SEAL Commander Reprimanded in Connection to Death of Recruit Leaves Post Early

U.S. Navy SEAL candidates participate in Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training at Coronado, Calif.
U.S. Navy SEAL candidates participate in Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training at Coronado, Calif., Jan. 23, 2018. (Petty Officer 1st Class Abe McNatt/U.S. Navy photo)

The head of the Naval Special Warfare Center -- the command that oversees much of the training for Navy SEALs -- has been transferred out of his job early. He had recently been reprimanded for his part in the high-profile death of a Navy SEAL candidate last year.

In a statement released Tuesday evening, the Navy announced that Capt. Mark Burke relieved Capt. Brian Drechsler. The service held a change of command ceremony earlier Tuesday, overseen by Rear Adm. Keith Davids, the head of Naval Special Warfare Command.

A spokesman for the command noted that Drechsler was not relieved due to poor performance or any violations of rules or regulations but rather that Davids made the decision to move up the already scheduled turnover to better focus on addressing some of the lingering issues identified by the Navy's own investigation into the death of Seaman Kyle Mullen in February 2022.

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However, Drechsler was one of three officers who received administrative "non-punitive" letters following Mullen's death. While the letters themselves carry no punishment, they typically render an officer unpromotable.

The first released investigation into the aspiring SEAL's death revealed the deadly culture that exists during the torturous "Hell Week" portion of the Navy's Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training, or BUD/S -- the first of several courses young sailors undergo to become SEALs.

The investigation, which was released in October, showed that recruits like Mullen are driven to hide symptoms and pain in order to complete the training or out of fear of being dropped from the program.

The report also highlighted a dangerous message that recruits were told by leadership: Calling outside doctors leads to trouble. One sailor told investigators that "he and the other students were instructed not to call 911 and not to go to the emergency room."

Mullen's mother, Regina Mullen, told Coffee or Die Magazine that she believes her son "was tortured."

She said that the paramedic who treated her son told her "there was blood everywhere."

The training program for the Navy's elite commandos is also undergoing another investigation that is being run by an admiral outside of the secretive and cloistered special warfare community. Naval Special Warfare Command has promised to make the results of this investigation public when it is complete.

The Associated Press reported that Drechsler told his command in a message before his relief that "it is crucial that we maintain the momentum we have made to improve our training, safety, and medical oversight while balancing the need to forge the world's greatest warriors."

Drechsler commissioned in the Navy in 1998 and was assigned to both SEAL Team One and Five throughout his career, according to a biography provided by the service.

He also completed combat tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as deployments to the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command and U.S. Central Command areas of operations. Among his numerous awards are three Combat Action Ribbons and three Bronze Stars, two of which have "combat V" devices denoting that the award was given for bravery in combat.

-- Konstantin Toropin can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @ktoropin.

Related: 'Instructed Not To Call 911': Report Reveals Confusion, Failure and Fear in SEAL Candidate Death

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