Whatever Happened To….LtCol Stuart Scheller, USMC, Fired?

 

You remember him.

He’s the United States Marine who–while still on active duty–excoriated his chain of command regarding their decision to leave Afghanistan in August of 2021.  There were several posts about it on Ricochet at, and just after, the time (some of them even by me)  Here are a few of them:

https://ricochet.com/1036403/honor-courage-and-commitment-a-usmc-ltcol-speaks-out/

https://ricochet.com/1036424/pointed-questions/

https://ricochet.com/1036490/a-cry-from-the-heart-from-a-real-american-hero/

https://ricochet.com/1038155/on-ltcol-scheller-update/

https://ricochet.com/1111504/an-update-on-former-usmc-ltcol-stuart-scheller/

https://ricochet.com/1073681/whatever-happened-to-ltcol-scheller/

Here’s the original video:

Net, net: He lost a great deal as a result of speaking out, not least of which was his seventeen-year, close to full-pension retirement, very distinguished, military career.

Since then, his life appears to have had its ups and downs.  He wrote a bestselling book.   His family fell apart.  He spent some time in the brig.   He was ordered into mental health counseling.  He launched a website–who doesn’t?  He was court-martialed and received a “general discharge under honorable conditions” one which indicates satisfactory performance, but a failure to meet all expectations of military conduct. He was encouraged to run for political office, but declined to do so.

And he now seems to have immersed himself in support of, and service to, military veterans in general, and those having difficulty re-integrating themselves into society as a result of the Global War on Terror in particular.

This, I find very commendable.  I hope he never gives that up.

On the most recent Marine Corps Birthday (November 10, 2023) he wrote a post for The Federalist, Can America, and its Veterans, Find Their Purpose? Nothing I haven’t heard before, trust me.  But bless him, he got it in front of millions of eyeballs which—these days—is what matters.

I see now that he is appealing the conditions of his discharge from the Marine Corps, and that he has a hearing scheduled on February 22 at the Washington Naval Yard. The question that he asks, in his Facebook post on the subject is, “What is Honor?”

I think it’s a pretty good question, especially in the circumstances.

Is Scheller honorable for having—while still on active duty—criticized the decisions made by his chain of command?

Or is someone like General Frank McKenzie, USMC, [Super-Honorably] Retired, the person who was the commander of CENTCOM at the time of the Afghanistan withdrawal, more worthy of the “honorable” designation?

Let’s be clear, McKenzie is a guy who’s been backtracking, one step at a time, in public, ever since he retired and was awarded his Marine Corps gold watch.

A year after Kabul fell, McKenzie met with Fox News’s Jennifer Griffith.  He made it clear (by this time, he’d retired super-honorably) that he and others in the know had advised at the time against the actions eventually taken by the Biden administration.

I can’t help noticing his equivocation about “alternatives,” and how he dodges the question about whether he should have—after strenuously advising another path—put his career on the line and resigned when the administration failed to follow his advice.  Then there is the bit about how the administration asserted that no-one thought Kabul would fall so quickly, when it’s readily apparent that many in the know knew exactly that and said so at the time.

Even more recently (just five months ago) General McKenzie USMC, Super-Honorably Retired, gave an interview to Fox News in which he said the following:

I believe history is going to view the decision to come out of Afghanistan in the way that we did and the manner that we were directed to come out as a fatal flaw.

I have a lot of regrets about how it ended in Afghanistan. I have a regret with the basic decision, which I think was the wrong decision. And I particularly regret that we did not choose to begin to evacuate our people, our embassy personnel, our American citizens and our at-risk Afghans at the time we made the decision to bring in our combat forces. I think that was a serious mistake, and I think that led to the events of August 2021 directly.

LtCol Stuart Scheller, USMC, Fired, put his career on the line to say exactly that, at a time when he knew what it would cost him.

General McKenzie, USMC, Retired and Super-Honorably Discharged, not-so-much.

What a disgrace to the uniform.

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  1. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Thank you for having a good memory.

    • #1
  2. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    It’s funny how our memories are so malleable. When people change their stories because it’s convenient, it’s a disgrace.  And I hope Scheller finds his way.

    • #2
  3. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    There is a kind of honor that fills a box on one’s DD Form 214.

    There’s another kind that one carries around in one’s heart.

    Godspeed, LtCol. Scheller.

     

    • #3
  4. cdor Member
    cdor
    @cdor

    Great post @she! Beautiful juxtaposition of a Lt Col to a General. The road from the former to the latter is where honesty and bravery oftentimes lose their way.

    • #4
  5. She Member
    She
    @She

    cdor (View Comment):

    Great post @ she! Beautiful juxtaposition of a Lt Col to a General. The road from the former to the latter is where honesty and bravery oftentimes lose their way.

    Thanks.  I have heard the same thing–that LtCol is perhaps the last officer rank before political ambition and its almost inevitable dissembling and self-interest take over.  The late Mr. She certainly thought so.

     

    • #5
  6. Steve Fast Member
    Steve Fast
    @SteveFast

    I support his integrity and courage for speaking the truth to power. There are a lot of generals who should be ashamed for their yellow-livered failure to speak up – and now they suddenly find their voices as paid TV contributors.

    BUT I think he should have either followed orders or resigned his commission before speaking out. Although he might not have gotten as much attention if he had spoken up once he was out of uniform, the results might have been better.

    The Brandon administration never changed its policy anyway, and no other senior commanders spoke out or resigned, so he didn’t get the desired changes. He would have lost his pension either way.

    But if he had resigned first, he would have stayed out of the brig and not been court-martialed. I don’t know what his marital issues were, but he might have been in a better position to work on those if he had not been going through he military justice system at the same time. And he might have found more support among senior and retired officers if he had done things the “right” way.

    I’m curious what retired military personnel think of this.

    • #6
  7. CRD Member
    CRD
    @CRD

    @she, you’re a gem! Thank you for this post!

    • #7
  8. She Member
    She
    @She

    Steve Fast (View Comment):

    I support his integrity and courage for speaking the truth to power. There are a lot of generals who should be ashamed for their yellow-livered failure to speak up – and now they suddenly find their voices as paid TV contributors.

    BUT I think he should have either followed orders or resigned his commission before speaking out. Although he might not have gotten as much attention if he had spoken up once he was out of uniform, the results might have been better.

    The Brandon administration never changed its policy anyway, and no other senior commanders spoke out or resigned, so he didn’t get the desired changes. He would have lost his pension either way.

    But if he had resigned first, he would have stayed out of the brig and not been court-martialed. I don’t know what his marital issues were, but he might have been in a better position to work on those if he had not been going through he military justice system at the same time. And he might have found more support among senior and retired officers if he had done things the “right” way.

    I’m curious what retired military personnel think of this.

    I’d like to hear their thoughts, too. 

    That being said, I think it’s entirely too easy for folks like McKenzie to suddenly “get religion,” and remember that they thought differently from those who were ordering them about, after the fact and when things have gone sideways and in the direction they now claim to have foreseen.  Somehow, when they do that, from the safety of 20/20 hindsight, they’re feted and applauded.

    Scheller didn’t do any of that.  He said his piece at the time, and stood by it. And he’s the goat? (Not uppercase.)

    I also think there’s disgrace in the fact that that an active-duty military officer, Mark (Thoroughly Modern) Milley, who was serving at the pleasure of his President, and as his country’s Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the time, made secret phone calls to General Li Zuocheng–his Chinese counterpart–between October 30 2020 and January 8, 2021, assuring him that, should the US President go off-script, he–General Milley–would be sure to let the Chinese know about the incoming threat ahead of time.

    Perhaps Milley should have resigned first, as well?  If only.

    Glory be.

     

    • #8
  9. OldPhil Coolidge
    OldPhil
    @OldPhil

    Steve Fast (View Comment):
    There are a lot of generals who should be ashamed for their yellow-livered failure to speak up

    Reminds me of an excellent book: Thomas E. Ricks’ The Generals. 

    Up until not too long ago, US generals were regularly sacked, demoted, transferred, etc., for many reasons, even during wartime. 

    Starting in Viet Nam and continuing to the present, generals are pretty much immune from any consequences.

    • #9
  10. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Steve Fast (View Comment):
    I’m curious what retired military personnel think of this.

    Metoo.

    • #10
  11. Red Herring Coolidge
    Red Herring
    @EHerring

    She (View Comment):

    cdor (View Comment):

    Great post @ she! Beautiful juxtaposition of a Lt Col to a General. The road from the former to the latter is where honesty and bravery oftentimes lose their way.

    Thanks. I have heard the same thing–that LtCol is perhaps the last officer rank before political ambition and its almost inevitable dissembling and self-interest take over. The late Mr. She certainly thought so.

     

    I agree. I walked out, retired, a few months before my O-6 board. I advocated for my people. Politicking for myself wasn’t on my bucket list. 

    • #11
  12. Red Herring Coolidge
    Red Herring
    @EHerring

    Steve Fast (View Comment):

    I support his integrity and courage for speaking the truth to power. There are a lot of generals who should be ashamed for their yellow-livered failure to speak up – and now they suddenly find their voices as paid TV contributors.

    BUT I think he should have either followed orders or resigned his commission before speaking out. Although he might not have gotten as much attention if he had spoken up once he was out of uniform, the results might have been better.

    The Brandon administration never changed its policy anyway, and no other senior commanders spoke out or resigned, so he didn’t get the desired changes. He would have lost his pension either way.

    But if he had resigned first, he would have stayed out of the brig and not been court-martialed. I don’t know what his marital issues were, but he might have been in a better position to work on those if he had not been going through he military justice system at the same time. And he might have found more support among senior and retired officers if he had done things the “right” way.

    I’m curious what retired military personnel think of this.

    I retired with a “*regular (officer)” commission. That doesn’t make me immune to being charged, especially by a military that is run by the left at the top levels. The military awards me a retainer, my pension, and I am responsible for acting appropriately. Don’t be fooled by retired (and not so retired) generals who seem to violate the rules attacking Trump. That tells me two-tiered justice also has crept into the UCMJ.

    *Until one is offered tenure, selected to be awarded a regular commission, one has a “reserve officer” commission. Don’t confuse it with a reserve branch of the military. Think of the use of the term in MASH. I had to sign a new agreement and be sworn in again when I accepted it. Service academy graduates enter with a regular commission. I had to be selected by a board. I believe it was when I was also selected for captain. Yes, they can call me back. Yes, we have a uniform set in the closet. No, they don’t still fit.

    • #12
  13. She Member
    She
    @She

    OldPhil (View Comment):

    Steve Fast (View Comment):
    There are a lot of generals who should be ashamed for their yellow-livered failure to speak up

    Reminds me of an excellent book: Thomas E. Ricks’ The Generals.

    Up until not too long ago, US generals were regularly sacked, demoted, transferred, etc., for many reasons, even during wartime.

    Yes.  I remember a few conversations in the past pointing this sort of thing out.  Eisenhower fired LTG Lloyd Fredendall,  after the Battle of Kasserine Pass, and replaced him with George Patton.  Maybe the majority of those fired or demoted in the past were deemed incompetent or incapable of carrying out their orders or doing their jobs by those higher in their chains of command.

    But McKenzie–who was in charge of the Afghanistan withdrawal–subsequently said he–and others–knew that what they was ordered to do was wrong,  that it would result in chaos and the imminent fall of Kabul, and that all those things said at the time about, “why not secure Bagram, evacuate Americans in an orderly fashion, leave a small American force in country, etc. etc.” were correct. And I believe, several of the generals publicly disputed Biden’s claim that he was following the advice of his senior military advisers on the withdrawal in every respect.

    Starting in Viet Nam and continuing to the present, generals are pretty much immune from any consequences.

    As, apparently, is their Commander-in-Chief.

    Thanks for the book recommendation.

    • #13
  14. Brian Wyneken Member
    Brian Wyneken
    @BrianWyneken

    Steve Fast (View Comment):

    . . . . 

    I’m curious what retired military personnel think of this.

    I generally agree with your perspective but note that it doesn’t really address the question of “honor” as presented in the OP. On that point, had LtCol Scheller sought my advice, I would likely have challenged his (seeming) notion that honor lay somehow closer in making a YouTube video than in seeking to address his concerns through established institutional means. Coming to speak with your immediate commander is just one of those established institutional means.

    Two other related comments (but not directly on point):

    (1) I believe, but don’t know for certain (one never does), that my career as an O-6 ended early due to my having professionally addressed a concern through an established institutional process. I was disappointed about that, but on that particular matter I wasn’t disappointed in myself.

    (2) My experience was that officers who were the most vehement in declarations regarding their honor or integrity tended to give less scrutiny to their own conduct . . . or at least their motivations.

     

    • #14
  15. She Member
    She
    @She

    Brian Wyneken (View Comment):

    Steve Fast (View Comment):

    . . . .

    I’m curious what retired military personnel think of this.

    I generally agree with your perspective but note that it doesn’t really address the question of “honor” as presented in the OP. On that point, had LtCol Scheller sought my advice, I would likely have challenged his (seeming) notion that honor lay somehow closer in making a YouTube video than in seeking to address his concerns through established institutional means. Coming to speak with your immediate commander is just one of those established institutional means.

    Two other related comments (but not directly on point):

    (1) I believe, but don’t know for certain (one never does), that my career as an O-6 ended early due to my having professionally addressed a concern through an established institutional process. I was disappointed about that, but on that particular matter I wasn’t disappointed in myself.

    (2) My experience was that officers who were the most vehement in declarations regarding their honor or integrity tended to give less scrutiny to their own conduct . . . or at least their motivations.

     

    Really good perspective.  Thanks. (I tend to think your two “related” comments may be far more on point than you suggest…)

    • #15
  16. Brian J Bergs Coolidge
    Brian J Bergs
    @BrianBergs

    Charles Lindbergh is another military officer who resigned his position and then criticized politicians for the lack of preparation for war.  He advocated on staying out of the war because it was insanity to enter in without preparation.  When the war did start he eventually contributed mightily to aerial combat tactics even credited with shooting down a Japanese plane.

    • #16
  17. Skyler Coolidge
    Skyler
    @Skyler

    I hope Scheller got the mental health care he clearly needed.  He was not quite right in the head.

    He was out of line, and he was rightly cashiered.  The military must be subordinate to the civilian power.  Whether and how to withdraw was a political matter.  I agree that Obama (and his minion in office) really screwed this up, but it is not the place of a lieutenant colonel to express his disapproval.  

    The place for criticizing the commander in chief is from the voting booth and from civilian speech.  It is unprofessional and unethical for a lieutenant colonel to have done what he did.  There are plenty of retired officers that can and do speak out.  On active duty, officers must follow lawful (and even awful) orders.  

    I think he had a nervous break down and his actions are a result of that malady.

    Should Gen McKenzie have retired?  Well that was up to him.  Would Kabul fall or not fall?  That was a political decision and not a military decision.  I see nothing wrong with advising the president against withdrawing and then following the order to withdraw.  Political and military leaders throughout history have made dumb decisions.  Sometimes those dumb decisions work, sometimes they don’t.  You can’t resign over every dumb decision.  

    • #17
  18. Skyler Coolidge
    Skyler
    @Skyler

    Red Herring (View Comment):
    *Until one is offered tenure, selected to be awarded a regular commission, one has a “reserve officer” commission. Don’t confuse it with a reserve branch of the military. Think of the use of the term in MASH. I had to sign a new agreement and be sworn in again when I accepted it. Service academy graduates enter with a regular commission. I had to be selected by a board. I believe it was when I was also selected for captain. Yes, they can call me back. Yes, we have a uniform set in the closet. No, they don’t still fit.

    They stopped doing that back in the 90’s.  All (navy and Marine Corps anyway) officers entering active duty now from normal sources get the same commission, including from the academies and ROTC.  

    • #18
  19. Red Herring Coolidge
    Red Herring
    @EHerring

    Skyler (View Comment):

    Red Herring (View Comment):
    *Until one is offered tenure, selected to be awarded a regular commission, one has a “reserve officer” commission. Don’t confuse it with a reserve branch of the military. Think of the use of the term in MASH. I had to sign a new agreement and be sworn in again when I accepted it. Service academy graduates enter with a regular commission. I had to be selected by a board. I believe it was when I was also selected for captain. Yes, they can call me back. Yes, we have a uniform set in the closet. No, they don’t still fit.

    They stopped doing that back in the 90’s. All (navy and Marine Corps anyway) officers entering active duty now from normal sources get the same commission, including from the academies and ROTC.

    I didn’t know that. I am sure commissioning is standardized. I was a captain in 1982 when I was commissioned as a regular officer.  I retired in late 90s.

    Update: AF transitioned by 2006.


    https://www.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/132077/air-force-eliminates-commissioned-officer-distinctions/

    • #19
  20. Skyler Coolidge
    Skyler
    @Skyler

    Red Herring (View Comment):

    Skyler (View Comment):

    Red Herring (View Comment):
    *Until one is offered tenure, selected to be awarded a regular commission, one has a “reserve officer” commission. Don’t confuse it with a reserve branch of the military. Think of the use of the term in MASH. I had to sign a new agreement and be sworn in again when I accepted it. Service academy graduates enter with a regular commission. I had to be selected by a board. I believe it was when I was also selected for captain. Yes, they can call me back. Yes, we have a uniform set in the closet. No, they don’t still fit.

    They stopped doing that back in the 90’s. All (navy and Marine Corps anyway) officers entering active duty now from normal sources get the same commission, including from the academies and ROTC.

    I didn’t know that. I am sure commissioning is standardized. I was a captain in 1982 when I was commissioned as a regular officer. I retired in late 90s.

    Update: AF transitioned by 2006.


    https://www.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/132077/air-force-eliminates-commissioned-officer-distinctions/

    I was off for the years, sorry.  

    • #20
  21. Red Herring Coolidge
    Red Herring
    @EHerring

    Skyler (View Comment):

    Red Herring (View Comment):

    Skyler (View Comment):

    Red Herring (View Comment):
    *Until one is offered tenure, selected to be awarded a regular commission, one has a “reserve officer” commission. Don’t confuse it with a reserve branch of the military. Think of the use of the term in MASH. I had to sign a new agreement and be sworn in again when I accepted it. Service academy graduates enter with a regular commission. I had to be selected by a board. I believe it was when I was also selected for captain. Yes, they can call me back. Yes, we have a uniform set in the closet. No, they don’t still fit.

    They stopped doing that back in the 90’s. All (navy and Marine Corps anyway) officers entering active duty now from normal sources get the same commission, including from the academies and ROTC.

    I didn’t know that. I am sure commissioning is standardized. I was a captain in 1982 when I was commissioned as a regular officer. I retired in late 90s.

    Update: AF transitioned by 2006.


    https://www.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/132077/air-force-eliminates-commissioned-officer-distinctions/

    I was off for the years, sorry.

    No, you weren’t. I saw a reference to your year,  too. I think it was happening over several years and two congressional acts.

    • #21
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