VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - The United States Navy identified 43-year-old Commander Brian Bourgeois, the commanding officer of SEAL Team 8, as the service member who died after a training exercise in Virginia Beach on December 4.
Bourgeois died at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital three days after being injured during a fast-rope training evolution.
A fast rope exercise is when members of the military come out of a helicopter very quickly rappelling, or sliding down, a thick rope to land perhaps on a building or ship.
Don Mann is a retired Navy SEAL from SEAL Team 6. He lent his expertise to us about the dangerous rigorous training these seals endure.
"SEAL training is toughest military training in the world, and there have been many, many SEALs who died since the inception of the SEALteams," said Mann. "Unfortunately, it's a fact of life because training has to replicate what they will be facing in time of war or conflict."
"When people get hurt or killed, the recipes are looked at - how can we prevent this from happening again? So, as far as living in a very, very dangerous world, they do it very safely regardless. People are always going to be hurt and killed because of the nature of the job in the training," said Mann.
Mann believes Navy SEALs are the fiercest, smartest members of the military because they are tasked with the toughest missions, but they inherit the highest risks.
"Many people who say, 'Oh, the training has to be easier' - they don't have a full comprehension of what's going on in the military or what the military is asked to do overseas," said Mann.
“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,” said Rear Adm. H.W. Howard III, commander, Naval Special Warfare Command. “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.”
Bourgeois was a dedicated husband and father of five children.
SEAL Team 8's executive officer has temporarily assumed command.
The details of the incident are still under investigation.
"We are working with SEAL Team 8 to provide every form of support we possibly can to Brian's family and teammates," said Capt. Donald G. Wetherbee, commodore, Naval Special Warfare Group 2. "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."
Bourgeois received his commission from the United States Naval Academy in May 2001 and served the Navy and Naval Special Warfare community for more than 20 years.
A GoFundMe page was created on Wednesday afternoon which said money raised is to support his wife and five children "during this time and beyond."
The GoFundMe page also said, "He lived a life of upstanding character, exceptional leadership, and touched the lives of all those with whom he came in contact. The impact he has made on this world and the legacy he leaves behind are immense and immeasurable. We are thankful for the memories made with him, the laughs we’ve shared, the lessons we have learned, and the better people we are for having known him."