Lt. Col. Stuart Scheller is a battalion commander in the United States Marine Corps. Or at least he was until yesterday. After the bombing attack in Kabul on Thursday killed several of his fellow Marines, Scheller posted a video to Facebook criticizing the top brass in the military. He talked about the “ineptitude” of some of the people responsible for the planning of the withdrawal and asked them to take responsibility for the lives lost. While doing so, he acknowledged that by making his complaints public he would be risking his career, his retirement benefits, and the stability of his family going forward. Less than 24 hours later, the Pentagon took him up on his offer and relieved him of his post. It’s certainly an ugly situation all the way around. (Free Beacon)
A sitting Marine battalion commander was fired Friday after he slammed the “ineptitude” of U.S. military leadership over the disastrous Afghanistan withdrawal, saying he was willing to risk losing his 17-year career and future retirement pension in order to “demand accountability” from top military brass.
Lt. Col. Stuart Scheller said in a Facebook post that he was relieved for cause after he posted a video Thursday saying military leadership let service members down during the bungled Afghanistan withdrawal. His video post came after a terrorist attack at Hamid Karzai International Airport on Thursday that killed 13 U.S. service members, including someone with whom Scheller had a close relationship.
“I have been relieved for caused based on a lack of trust and confidence,” Scheller wrote.
Here’s the video that cost Scheller his post. It’s a bit over four minutes long.
Before getting to the fallout of the video, let’s take a moment to examine the language Scheller used in his critique. He spoke of the “ineptitude” of the military’s leadership, which might sound a little harsh. Beyond that, all he said was that the leadership had “let them down” and demanded that someone “raise their hand” and “take accountability” for what has happened. It wasn’t exactly the fire and brimstone tongue-lashing I was expecting.
But it was still criticism. I realize that this is going to be an unpopular take with some of our readers, but speaking as a veteran myself, I can tell you that you simply don’t go out in public and trash the chain of command (all the way up to the Secretary of Defense) and not expect some repercussions. Scheller knew that and said as much in his video.
Civilians are free to critique the government and the military leadership all they like. Heck, I pretty much do that for a living. But when you’re in the service, your options are limited and your right to appeal such treatment is basically nonexistent. You follow your orders and don’t create a spectacle that makes the service look bad, even if you are absolutely correct in your criticism, as Scheller was.
If you watched the video, you’ll note that he asked the Joint Chiefs why we abandoned the Bagram airfield before starting the evacuation. I’ve asked the same question here multiple times since the day we turned it over. It was one of the worst of many mistakes that were made during this process. But again, a sitting Battalion Commander is in no position to make the critique publicly. And he may wind up paying a very dear price for his willingness to buck the system and demand accountability from the senior levels of leadership. Or perhaps he can work something out in the background. The worse the Marines treat Scheller, the more of a public relations nightmare this will probably turn into.