Training procedures changed to increase safety

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – Military officials are reviewing the findings of an investigation into the death of U.S. Navy SEAL Capt. Brian Bourgeois during a routine training on a Virginia Beach base.

Those officials have not released their findings yet but have confirmed that they’ve changed training procedures to increase safety as a result of their investigation. 

Bourgeois, 43, died Dec. 7, 2021 after falling about 40 feet from an U.S. Army H-60M Black Hawk helicopter during a fast-rope elevation training three days prior. Bourgeois was the commander of SEAL Team 8, based out of Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story. This month, Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro posthumously promoted Bourgeois to the rank of captain. 

“The loss of Brian is still felt throughout the Navy Special Warfare Community,” Naval Special Warfare Command Rear Adm. Keith Davids said in a statement. “His promotion to captain is an absolute testament to his character, competence, and leadership. Brian was one of our very best leaders, who possessed all the attributes that make our force effective. He led by example, was a terrific teammate, and a committed father, husband, and friend.”

The U.S. Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) completed its primary investigation into Bourgeois’ death in May. The investigation identified “several primary causes of the incident.”

The results of the investigation have not been made public yet as officials “work through the findings to ensure accuracy,” according to a USASOC spokesperson. 

Bourgeois’ death led to changes in military training, like fast-rope elevation. Fast-roping is a technique in which SEAL teams descend down a 1.57-inch rope from helicopters. It’s quicker than rappelling; however, it’s more challenging because the military member is usually carrying a heavy load of equipment. 

U.S. and Panamanian service members conduct fast rope insertion extraction system training during Exercise Mercury in Panama, Jan. 29, 2021. (Photo: Air Force Staff Sgt. Elijaih Tiggs)

Military officials have updated and rewritten training procedures to prevent future incidents and increase safety. Those updated and rewritten procedures have been implemented and aim to “ensure both aircrew and partner ground force take appropriate steps to ensure communication is clear and safety remains an utmost concern for all,” according to a USASOC spokesperson. 

“The loss of Brian remains felt throughout the Special Operations community,” Lt. Col. Mike Burns wrote in a statement. “As teammates, we mourn the loss of such a phenomenal patriot, and celebrate his promotion as recognition of an exceptional leader who positively impacted every life he touched. 

“We remain committed to supporting the Bourgeois family, our service members, and our teammates across Naval Special Warfare, and have worked together to take appropriate steps to ensure a tragedy like this does not happen again.”