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Although Navy officials provided some details of the chief-selectee training at Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, the investigation is ongoing and therefore a full account of what led to 12 hospitalized sailors was unavailable.
However, one of those selectees was willing to share his experience with Navy Times on the condition of anonymity.
The training began as a normal physical training session with stretching and warmup excercises, he said. There were about 10 “genuine chiefs,” as he called them, conducting PT.
The session included a discussion of Lt. Michael Murphy, a Navy SEAL who was killed during a 2005 ambush in Afghanistan and posthumously received the Medal of Honor.
“We’d been directed to research [Murphy] the day before, and they were walking us through the ranks and randomly asking selectees about Murphy and leadership and what it meant,” the selectee remembered.
Then, he said, they formed up and ran to the base gym. That’s where they were ordered to line up along the pullup bars.
“They told us to push ourselves and do as many as we could do until we hit muscle exhaustion,” he alleged. “After everyone had gone once, they ordered us to form up again on the bar and for the next 20 minutes, we’re going to do as many pullups as we could and force ourselves to muscle exhaustion.”
The selectee said that was the first time they’d done pullups during their CPO 365 training. Chiefs said this was “Michael Murphy PT,” similar to a routine that the lieutenant had performed regularly.
“We’re sailors, not Marines, and unless you are a SEAL or [explosice ordnance disposal], pullups aren’t a part of how the Navy normally does PT,” he said. “It’s just not something we’re used to, and I was also wondering about Murphy. Because he was a lieutenant and not a chief — what did he have to do with us?”
But no one quit, he said, and the group of selectees was coming together as a team, cheering each other on during the exercises.
After the pullup session, the source said, the selectees again formed up and ran to a grassy area where they were told they had to do 200 pushups in 15 minutes.
“We were doing the pushups in sets of five or 10, working hard to get to the 200 they wanted us to do,” he said. The chiefs yelled out occasionally to mark the time.
“Again, no one gave up or quit, though some did throw up,” he said. “But they kept going and pushing themselves.”
And again, they were off and running, this time toward the main part of the base. Selectess thought it was over, the source remembered, but then they detoured up “Radar Hill.”
Halfway up, he said, they were again stopped and ordered to get in a circle and lock arms. This time, the exercises were squats. They were ordered to do 300 of them in 15 minutes.
“I’d say it was a little harsh and definitely more physical training then we’d done in our training up to that point,” the selectee said. “We were told again it was part of the lesson on leadership and Michael Murphy — part of a PT routine that Murphy liked to do. It certainly wasn’t something we regular sailors were used to doing.”
Even so, he said the chiefs made sure they were hydrated. Sailors were given ample opportunity to fill up their CamelBak bladders when they felt the need, he said.
No one seemed sick after the PT session wrapped up, and the rest of the day was uneventful. The following morning, the selectees gathered to work together, preparing for their pinning ceremony later this month. That’s when one of the sailors showed everyone his arms.
“Both his arms were swollen and some others came forward with one or another arm that had swollen, too,” the selectee said.
He said the other selectees told the hurting, worst-off sailor to go to medical, but he initially refused. However, as the day wore on, symptoms got worse and he went to get a doctor’s opinion.
“We were encouraged by our sponsors and chiefs to go ourselves and get checked out,” he said. “I still wasn’t feeling all that bad, so I still put it off.”
But later that evening, at home, he changed his mind as the pain in his arms and sides got worse. Not only did he go to the hospital, he found himself being admitted after a test showed the muscle tissue in his blood were at dangerous levels.
Comparing notes with fellow selectees, he said they appeared to be diagnosed with rhabdomyolysis, a condition in which muscles are overworked to the point of breakdown and they release toxins into the bloodstream that can overwhelm the kidneys.
The selectee is out of the hospital and seems to be recovering. While the case is under investigation, he expressed sympathy for the chiefs allegedly involved.
“I really don’t think there was any malicious intent on the part of the chiefs doing the training,” he said. “But on the other hand, we were asked to do this PT that we really weren’t prepared for, and though no one quit, and no one raised their hands and took a training time-out, it unnecessarily put our immediate and possibly long-term health at risk — and that has all the selectees — and also spouses wondering why.”