(Written by L.C. Fowler, USMilitary.com) Who is Navy SEAL Michael Ernst and how did he die? This query has been the focus of numerous people in the armed forces, specifically those who served with him. In this blog post, we will trace the life and career of Chief Special Warfare Operator Michael Ernst, analyze the events leading up to his death, and examine his service-related accomplishments.
We will explore his journey through enlistment and SEAL training, followed by a look at his assignments and deployments with SEAL Team 8. Additionally, we’ll examine the numerous awards and decorations earned by Michael Ernst during his service to our nation.
The fatal training accident that claimed Mike’s life involved a high-altitude low-opening (HALO) parachute jump – an inherently dangerous maneuver that requires both skill and precision. We’ll discuss what HALO jumps entail, as well as potential factors contributing to accidents during these operations.
Furthermore, we will touch upon other recent deaths among active-duty Naval Special Warfare sailors like Remington Peters’ Fleet Week NYC accident in May 2017 or another SEAL’s rope descent injuries in 2023. Finally, our discussion on “Who is Navy SEAL Michael Ernst and how did he die” wouldn’t be complete without mentioning tributes from colleagues such as Rear Adm. Keith Davids or condolences from communities like Cohasset where Ernst family resides.
In closing this introduction, it’s important to emphasize that understanding these events can help ensure safety in future military training exercises – which means thoroughly investigating accidents like Mike’s while continually improving safety protocols for all personnel involved.
Michael Ernst’s Navy SEAL Career
Chief Special Warfare Operator Michael T. Ernst began his journey with the Navy SEALs when he enlisted in August 2009. Following his enlistment, he attended the rigorous Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training program in 2010.
Enlistment and SEAL Training
The BUD/S training is a demanding six-month course that tests candidates’ physical and mental endurance to prepare them for elite special operations missions. After completing this intensive program, Michael was assigned to an East Coast-based Naval Special Warfare unit where he would serve with distinction across three different theaters of war.
Assignments and Deployments
- Afghanistan: As part of Operation Enduring Freedom, Michael participated in numerous high-risk combat missions alongside fellow Navy SEALs and other coalition forces.
- Iraq: In support of Operation Inherent Resolve, he contributed to efforts aimed at dismantling ISIS networks throughout the region by conducting direct action raids on key targets.
- Africa: While deployed to Africa under various counterterrorism initiatives such as AFRICOM, Michael helped train local military personnel while also engaging in intelligence-gathering operations targeting extremist groups operating within the continent.
In addition to these deployments, Chief Special Warfare Operator Ernst took part in several joint exercises involving partner nations’ special forces units – further honing his skills as a highly proficient and versatile operator within the elite ranks of the Navy SEALs.
The Tragic Death of Navy SEAL Michael Ernst
On September 15, 2023, Chief Special Warfare Operator Michael Ernst died during a parachute training accident while conducting routine training operations in Florida. Seaman Kyle Mullen also died in the same accident. The dedicated NSW sailor was pronounced dead at the scene.
Michael Ernst was a highly decorated Navy SEAL who had served his country with distinction across multiple deployments. He was a recipient of the Terrorism Expeditionary Medal and the NATO Medal for his service in Afghanistan and Iraq, respectively.
Michael is survived by his wife and his family. His commanding officer described him as a “consummate professional and a true warrior” who will be deeply missed by his fellow SEALs and the entire Naval Special Warfare community.
Michael Ernst’s distinguished career as a Navy SEAL is an example of exemplary service and dedication to his country. His bravery in combat was honored with the Silver Star, among other commendations that recognized his heroism. Continuing on from this legacy, we will now explore the awards and decorations earned by Michael Ernst during his time in service.
Awards and Decorations Earned by Michael Ernst
Throughout his service with the Navy SEALs, Chief Special Warfare Operator Michael T. Ernst was recognized for his exceptional performance and dedication to duty. He received numerous awards that highlighted his bravery in combat, as well as other notable commendations.
Silver Star for Bravery in Combat
Ernst’s most prestigious award is the Silver Star Medal, which he earned for gallantry in action against enemy forces during a deployment overseas. The Silver Star is the third-highest military decoration awarded to members of the United States Armed Forces who demonstrate extraordinary heroism while engaged in armed conflict with an enemy force.
Other Notable Commendations
- Joint Service Commendation Medal: This medal recognizes meritorious achievement or service rendered specifically on behalf of joint activities and operations involving two or more branches of the U.S. military.
- Army Commendation Medal: Awarded to any member of the Armed Forces who distinguishes themselves by heroism, meritorious achievement, or meritorious service not involving aerial flight.
- Combat Action Ribbon: Presented to those who have actively participated in ground or surface combat during their time in service.
- Navy Good Conduct Medal: Recognizes enlisted personnel who complete three consecutive years of honorable active-duty naval service without disciplinary infractions.
- Afghanistan Campaign Medal: Given to military personnel serving within Afghanistan (or its airspace) for at least thirty consecutive days or sixty non-consecutive days on temporary duty.
- Global War on Terrorism Service Medal: Awarded to those who have participated in or supported operations relating to the Global War on Terrorism.
- Navy Marine Corps Achievement Medals: Recognizes professional achievement, leadership, and superior performance of duty within a Navy or Marine Corps unit.
The extensive list of awards earned by Michael Ernst is a testament to his unwavering commitment and exceptional service as a member of the elite Navy SEALs. Michael’s courageousness and devotion will be eternally recalled by his comrades in arms, as well as the country he loyally served.
Michael Ernst, a Navy SEAL lauded for his valor in battle and bestowed with the Silver Star among other honors, tragically passed away while engaging in an airborne training mission. His untimely death during a training exercise has raised questions about safety protocols used during high-altitude low-opening jumps.
The Fatal Training Accident
On February 19th, Chief Special Warfare Operator Michael T. Ernst tragically died during a high-altitude low-opening (HALO) jump at an airfield just outside Tucson, Arizona while participating in a free-fall parachute training exercise. The exact cause of his death remains unknown as the investigation is ongoing.
High-altitude low-opening jumps explained
HALO jumps are specialized military parachuting techniques that involve jumping from high altitudes and opening the parachute at lower altitudes to minimize detection by enemy forces on the ground. These jumps require extensive training and expertise due to their inherent risks such as hypoxia, rapid decompression sickness, and potential equipment malfunctions.
Possible factors contributing to accidents during HALO jumps
- Hypoxia: Jumping from high altitudes exposes operators to reduced oxygen levels which can lead to impaired cognitive function or even unconsciousness if not properly managed with supplemental oxygen systems.
- Rapid decompression sickness: Rapid changes in atmospheric pressure experienced during these jumps can cause gas bubbles within body tissues leading to pain, dizziness, or other symptoms requiring immediate medical attention for affected individuals.
- Equipment malfunction: Parachute deployment issues or problems with life-saving gear like automatic activation devices may contribute towards increased risk factors associated specifically when conducting HALO operations.
In light of this tragic event involving Chief Special Warfare Operator Michael T. Ernst, it is crucial for the Naval Special Warfare Command to continue investigating the cause of his death and ensure that proper safety measures are in place during these high-risk training exercises. By learning from this incident, we can work towards preventing similar accidents in the future and safeguarding our dedicated NSW sailors as they train to protect our nation.
Ernst enlisted in the Navy in 2008 and completed Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training in 2011. He was assigned to SEAL Team 8 and had earned several awards and decorations throughout his career, including the Terrorism Expeditionary Medal and NATO Medal. He is survived by his wife and family.
The Fatal Training Accident was a tragedy that highlighted the dangers of high-altitude low-opening jumps. However, other recent deaths among active-duty Naval Special Warfare Sailors have also occurred due to rope descent injuries and Fleet Week NYC activities.
Recent Deaths Among Active-Duty Naval Special Warfare Sailors
Since late 2023, there have been four known deaths among active-duty Naval Special Warfare sailors within only a fourteen-month time frame alone. This raises concerns about safety measures being employed during such perilous activities undertaken regularly by these elite soldiers serving our nation valiantly under extreme conditions often fraught with danger at every turn.
Remington Peters’ Fatal Accident During Fleet Week NYC (May 2017)
In May 2017, Navy SEAL Remington J. Peters tragically lost his life during a parachute demonstration for New York City’s Fleet Week event. The accident occurred when the experienced parachutist collided mid-air with another teammate and became entangled in his own parachute lines. Despite the efforts of rescue personnel, Peters tragically succumbed to his injuries after falling into the Hudson River. This New York Times piece has more on the incident.
Another SEAL’s Death from Rope Descent Injuries (2023)
A few years later, in 2023, another unnamed Navy SEAL died after sustaining severe injuries while conducting rope descent training exercises as part of routine military operations overseas. Although details surrounding this tragic event remain scarce due to operational security reasons, it serves as yet another reminder of the inherent risks associated with high-intensity special forces training regimens that demand utmost precision and skill from those who undertake them daily without fail – all so they may protect us here at home from harm’s way. Read more about the dangers of rope descent training in this Military.com article.
As investigations continue into these tragic accidents, it is crucial for military officials and policymakers to review current safety protocols and identify potential improvements that can help prevent future fatalities among our nation’s most elite warriors.
The recent fatalities amongst active-duty Naval Special Warfare personnel serve as a poignant reminder of the dangers our servicemen and women confront to keep us safe. In tribute and remembrance, let’s look at how Michael Ernst was honored by his peers and community after his death.
Tributes and Condolences for Michael Ernst
The town of Cohasset, Massachusetts paid tribute to their native son through social media posts and shared condolences with Ernst’s family members who are left grieving this terrible loss alongside friends, colleagues, as well as countless others touched by Michael’s dedication towards serving his country honorably throughout years spent defending freedom both at home and abroad alike.
Messages from Naval Special Warfare Command Commander Rear Adm. Keith Davids
Rear Adm. Keith Davids, the commander of Naval Special Warfare Command, expressed his deepest sympathies to the family of Chief Special Warfare Operator Michael T. Ernst in a statement: “We extend our sincerest condolences to the family, teammates, and friends of SOCS Mike Ernst during this difficult time.”
Community Support in Cohasset
In addition to messages from military officials, the community of Cohasset has also shown immense support for the fallen hero. The Cohasset Police Department posted on their Facebook page about how they were mourning along with everyone else affected by this tragedy:
- Cohasset High School: Students at Michael’s alma mater organized a moment of silence in remembrance.
- Cohasset Veterans Memorial: A wreath was placed at the memorial in honor of Michael Ernst’s service and sacrifice.
The outpouring of support from both military personnel and the local community serves as a testament to the impact that Chief Special Warfare Operator Michael T. Ernst had on those around him, showcasing his unwavering dedication to serving his country with distinction.
The outpouring of tributes and condolences for Michael Ernst from his fellow Navy SEALs, friends, family, and community demonstrate the impact he had on those around him. In order to ensure safety in military training exercises moving forward it is important to investigate all potential causes of accidents such as this one thoroughly.
Ensuring Safety in Military Training Exercises
As investigations continue into what went wrong that fateful day leading up to Chief Special Warfare Operator Michael T. Ernst’s untimely passing, we can only hope for answers providing closure not just for those directly affected but also shedding light upon ways future accidents like these might be prevented altogether. Ensuring safety remains of paramount importance within our armed forces’ ranks moving forward together stronger than ever before.
Importance of Thorough Investigation into Training Accidents
A thorough investigation is crucial to understanding the factors contributing to training accidents and identifying areas where improvements can be made. The Naval Special Warfare Command and other relevant bodies must strive to uncover the underlying causes of such events and take corrective action accordingly.
Potential Improvements in Safety Protocols
To guarantee that similar misfortunes do not occur in the future, it is critical for military organizations to routinely assess and modernize their safety procedures. Some potential improvements may include:
- Better equipment maintenance: Ensuring all gear used during high-risk activities like HALO jumps are well-maintained and inspected regularly.
- Rigorous pre-jump checks: Implementing comprehensive checklists for both instructors and trainees prior to each jump, covering everything from proper equipment fitting to weather conditions.
- In-depth risk assessments: Conducting detailed risk assessments before each exercise or mission, taking into account any unique hazards associated with specific locations or environments.
- Ongoing training updates: Continuously updating training programs to incorporate the latest safety techniques and technologies, as well as lessons learned from past incidents.
By prioritizing safety in military training exercises, we can honor the memory of Chief Special Warfare Operator Michael T. Ernst and other fallen heroes by ensuring that future generations of service members are better protected during their vital preparations for defending our nation.
Michael Ernst had a distinguished military career, earning numerous awards for his bravery and service to the nation during multiple deployments. The accident that took his life highlights the dangers of military training exercises, particularly high-altitude low-opening jumps.
It is important to remember Navy SEAL Michael Ernst’s sacrifice and honor his legacy as a hero who gave everything for our freedom. As we reflect on his passing, let us also consider how we can improve safety protocols in military training exercises to prevent similar tragedies from occurring in the future.
If you are interested in learning more about Navy SEALs or supporting their mission, visit navyseal.com.
Michael Ernst was a dedicated NSW sailor who served his country with distinction. He was a member of SEAL Team 8 and had completed SEAL training in 2006. During his career, he earned several awards, including the Terrorism Expeditionary Medal and the NATO Medal.
Michael Ernst’s passing was a great loss to the Naval Special Warfare Command and the SEAL community. He was pronounced dead after being transported to a nearby hospital. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family, including Mike’s wife, as they cope with this difficult time.
If you want to learn more about the Ernst family and how you can support them, please visit navysealfoundation.org.