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Navy SEAL dies after training accident

Cmdr. Brian Bourgeois, commanding officer of SEAL Team 8. (U.S. Naval Special Warfare Command photo/Released)
December 08, 2021

A U.S. Navy SEAL died on Tuesday from injuries he sustained over the weekend during a training accident at Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek in Virginia Beach.

Navy Times first reported on the death of the SEAL. In an emailed statement to American Military News, the Naval Special Warfare command subsequently the SEAL as Cmdr. Brian Bourgeois, 43, the commander of SEAL Team 8.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the Bourgeois family — and we will ensure our community remains in support of and in relationship with Brian’s family and his children, for life,” Rear Adm. H.W. Howard III, commander of Naval Special Warfare Command, said in the statement. “Brian was one of our very best leaders, who possessed all the attributes that make our force effective. We will miss his charismatic leadership and faithful stewardship of our standard. His legacy carries on in teammates he served with, led, and mentored.”

The accident is currently under investigation, but initial indications are that Bourgeois was fatally injured during a fast-rope training evolution on Saturday. Following the mishap, Bourgeois was taken to Norfolk Sentara General Hospital, where he died three days later.

The executive officer for SEAL Team 8 has temporarily assumed command. 

Bourgeois graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis in 2001 and, from there, began special warfare officer training. He has served in the Naval Special Warfare community for 20 years.

Bourgeois’ awards, decorations and qualifications include the Bronze Star withCombat “V” device, two Defense Meritorious Service Medals, a Joint Service Commendation Medal, two Navy/Marine Corps Commendation Medals, two Navy/Marine Corps Achievement Medals, a Combat Action Ribbon, the National Defense Service Medal, the Iraq Campaign Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, a Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, a Rifle Expert qualification and a Pistol Expert qualification.

“We are working with SEAL Team 8 to provide every form of support we possibly can to Brian’s family and teammates,” Capt. Donald G. Wetherbee, commodore, Naval Special Warfare Group 2, said. “An incident like this weighs heavily on us all. Brian was as tough as they come, an outstanding leader, and a committed father, husband and friend. This is a great loss to everyone who knew him. He will be greatly missed.” 

SEAL Team 8 has eight operational platoons and its area of focus covers Arica, the Caribbean and the Mediterranean. The SEAL team’s platoons deploy on carrier battle groups and amphibious ships attached to the U.S. 2nd, 5th and 7th fleets.

It’s not the first instance of U.S. special operations troops dying during training this year. A soldier assigned to the 10th Special Forces Group died during diving training at Naval Air Station Key West in Florida in July.

Another soldier died in March of this year during a still unspecified training event at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, while participating in the “Swamp Phase” of the Army’s Ranger school. The “Swamp Phase” of Ranger School includes training in coastal swamp environments, including waterborne and small boat operations and instruction on how to navigate water obstacles and maneuver through swamps.

Air Force Times reported an airman assigned to the Special Tactics Training Squadron at Hurlburt Field, Florida drowned during a 2,000-yard training swim in March of 2020. An investigative team found that, in that incident, the typical buddy system was not followed.

This article has been updated to include the SEAL’s identity, which was revealed after it the article was released