— -- The Navy is reviewing procedures for keeping track of trainees who do not make it through the grueling course to become SEALs in the wake of three deaths involving sailors who participated in the last four training classes, military officials said.
Two of the deaths involved trainees who had recently not made it through BUDS -- Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL -- training that selects the sailors who will join the elite special operations unit.
In April, Seaman Daniel DelBianco, 23, committed suicide after he did not make it through "hell week," the intense week-long climax to BUDS during which prospective SEALs endure extreme sleep deprivation and tough physical conditions to see if they can carry out their military training under exhausting conditions. Trainees who successfully complete the BUDS course must then pass an additional six-month course to actually qualify to become SEALs.
In November, Petty Officer 2nd Class Caplen Weare died in a car accident while driving intoxicated, the accident occurred three days after he had voluntarily dropped out of the BUDS course, officials said.
Last Friday, Seaman James Derek Lovelace, 21, died during a pool exercise at the start of the six month BUDS training in Coronado, California, the Navy said. The cause of his death remains under investigation.
The Washington Post first reported the deaths of DelBianco and Weare on Thursday.
“In the wake of the recent suicide we have acknowledged opportunities to improve out-process and recovery procedures for students who disenrolled -- specifically improving accountability for sleep-deprived Sailors,” Capt. Jay Hennessey, the commanding officer of the Navy Special Warfare Center that conducts the selection and training of SEALs, said in a statement Thursday night. “An ongoing investigation will outline more specific recommendations."
“Our safety precautions for those who dropped from training have been effective for 50 years of BUD/S classes,” Hennessey added.
“For 50 years, thousands of young men have voluntarily disenrolled from Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training,” he continued. “Despite a successful track record, any loss of life drives us to ensure we are doing everything possible to make training safe and effective.”
SEAL candidates are drawn from volunteers from the enlisted and officer ranks.
The renown of Navy SEALs has grown in recent years with their role in conducting dangerous, high-risk missions in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, particularly after SEAL Team Six carried out the 2011 raid in Pakistan that killed Osama Bin Laden.
Last week, Special Operations Officer 1st Class Charles Keating IV was killed in northern Iraq during a firefight with ISIS fighters. Keating was serving as part of a quick-response force sent to rescue a small team of SEALs serving as advisers to Kurdish forces that were fighting back a surprise ISIS push across the front lines north of Mosul.