To his supporters, he was a rare patriot willing to speak tough truths in power, at the cost of his career and financial security. For his superiors, he was extremely out of place and did not want to register his complaints through the secular internal channels.
Either way, Lt. Col. Stuart Scheller probably won’t be a Marine any longer.
The 17-year-old Marine Corps veteran who led a one-man social media campaign holding senior US military officials to account after the withdrawal from Afghanistan will not deny what he did on Thursday when his court-martialed begins at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, one of its attorneys confirmed on Wednesday. Lieutenant-Colonel Scheller will plead guilty to each of the charges brought against him and ask for a discharge no worse than “general under honorable conditions”.
For a series of social media posts slamming the Pentagon leadership for its record in Afghanistan, Lt. Col. Scheller was accused of showing contempt of those responsible; disrespecting senior officers; willfully disobey a senior officer; breach of homework; failure to comply with an order; and displaying conduct unbecoming of an officer.
“He made these statements. He’s not a hypocrite, ”said lawyer Timothy Parlatore, one of at least three civilian lawyers working on his case. “But we always get a sentencing hearing where we can present evidence to put everything in context. “
Lt. Col. Scheller’s social media posts, including a viral video in which he wore his camouflage uniform, lambasted key civilian and military leaders for failing to accept their responsibilities in the days following 13 US soldiers – mainly his fellow Marines – and more than 100 Afghans were killed in an August 26 suicide bombing at Kabul airport.
“He will give the Pentagon a personal class by accepting responsibility,” said a source familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified due to a gag order imposed by Marine Corps officials.
The charges were referred to a special court martial by USMC Major General Julian D. Alford, who heads Marine Training Command. Mr Parlatore said he hoped Marine Corps officials would agree to issue Lt. Col. Scheller only a letter of reprimand that might allow him to retain some of his veteran benefits after his departure from the military. service.
With 17 years of uniform, he agreed to forgo a 20-year pension and resign from his commission, his lawyers said. But military commanders rejected his request and dismissed him from his post as infantry battalion commander at Camp Lejeune.
When his commanding officer ordered him to quit his social media crusade, Lt. Col. Scheller also took to the internet to talk about it, saying at one point that “the system” should be taken down. He was fired as a battalion commander and spent a week in the brig at Camp Lejeune even before charges were laid.
“We need new blood and perspectives. It is time for a new generation to assume American power, ”Lt. Col. Scheller said in a video. “Follow me, and we’ll bring it all [expletive] system down – constitutionally – with one voice.
In addition to demanding a series of resignations from top Pentagon leadership, Lt. Col. Scheller called for charges against Marine Corps General Frank McKenzie, Jr., commander of United States Central Command to be dropped. who was in general command of Afghanistan during the collapse of the US-backed Afghan government and army.
His imprisonment drew strong reactions from the public, some turning him into a famous political cause. His lawyer compared the treatment of Lt. Col. Scheller for making videos critical of military leadership with that of General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, who gave smacking interviews to former President Trump to Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward for his new book.
“It’s a double standard. How bad do you want to hit [Lt. Col. Scheller] Unless you want to bring in Milley and a number of other people? Said Mr. Parlatore. “Stu Scheller is going to teach Pentagon leaders a lesson in what taking responsibility looks like.”
More than a dozen GOP lawmakers on Capitol Hill last month called for his release from pre-trial detention. Some have compared his case to that of Army General Billy Mitchell, whose defense of the need for air power in the aftermath of World War I and harsh criticism from his superiors resulted in a court martial, but who was then praised when many of his reviews proved valid.
But Lt. Col. Scheller has also drawn criticism online for the way he has broadcast his views, especially from veterans and the military.
“He had a little bit of morality until that second video where he trashed everything,” wrote a Reddit poster called “Imperial Engagement.”
Another commentator said Lt. Col. Scheller was “determined to be a rebel and it’s getting boring.”
“I knew him years ago and he was good to go. This version of him is sad and annoying, ”said the commentator who called himself“ Old Rebel ”. “… Now he’s posting on social media just to disobey a written (and) direct order not to post on social media.”