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Scheller moral dilemma: Stay quiet or save Marines in Afghanistan exit

Written By | Oct 4, 2021
Marines, Scheller, Afghanistan, Milley, McKenzie, Austin, Retreat

AFGHANISTAN, Camp Dwyer, April 2011. Marines with Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 2 salute during the VMU-2 change of command at Camp Dwyer. The Marines and sailors said goodbye to Lt. Col. Daniel T. Lathrop, who relinquished command to Lt. Col. Mikel R. Huber during a ceremony on the squadron’s runway. “The Marines did a great job out here and did everything I asked of them and more,” said Lathrop, a native of Marcellus, N.Y. “For the Marines that I have worked with over the last year and a half, I am very proud of you all.” Photo by Cpl. Samantha H. Arrington

SAN DIEGO: Marine LtCol. Stuart Scheller has found himself in a one-man spotlight seeking answers, when in truth many with high moral standards may seek the same. He is not alone but flanked by thousands of Marines feeling the challenge of the disastrous end in Afghanistan. Scheller’s in jail for criticizing his chain of command in public, standing up for military accountability he built a career on. Others may privately laud Scheller’s efforts, but have families to shelter. Scheller, a Bronze Star recipient, had a moral dilemma so troubling he risked all.

This 17-year Marine veteran posted his first video to Facebook and Linked In on Aug 26, same day as the suicide bomb that killed 13 service members and hundreds of Afghans. Scheller says in the video,

“One of the people that was killed was someone I have a personal relationship with and I won’t go into any more details because the family is still being notified.”

Scheller added he “had a lot to lose.” His friend was dead due to airport perimeter security in Taliban hands. Marines have a very tight brotherhood and one loss let alone 13 punches the gut. It appears Scheller spoke out to save Marines and other lives during the ongoing botched evacuations that spiraled daily into disaster.

Many Marines endured heartbreaking losses throughout the war.

When a brother you know dies at the hands of your enemy, it gets personal. Blame and guilt taunt. ‘What could I have done to save him?’ ‘Should I have gone with my gut, not the order?’ His kids and wife are now alone in this world. He’s in a wheelchair the rest of his life. The grief is intense.

There are many more good command decisions than bad ones. By the time you are a Lieutenant Colonel – you’ve seen them all. This chaotic Afghanistan exit led Scheller to speak out –  seized with gripping emotion.

“I have a growing discontent and contempt for my ‘perceived’ ineptitude at the foreign policy level and want to specifically ask some questions to some of my senior leaders,” stated Scheller in the video.

He admits he wasn’t sure what would happen if he had the courage to post the video, saying,

“What you believe in can only be defined by what you are willing to risk. If I’m willing to risk my current battalion commander’s seat, my retirement, my family’s stability to say some of the things I want to say, I think it gives me some moral high ground to demand the same honesty, integrity, and accountability from my senior leaders.”

Milley readily admits they went in with a “Failed Strategy.” Why do that? Who profits from it? How many will die starting with failure?

Turning over Bagram to terrorists is a stomach-turning mystery to be solved.

When one chief lemming walks off a cliff – do the others blindly follow? Not a leader like Scheller who cares about safe evacuations.

“I’m not saying we’ve got to be in Afghanistan forever, but I am saying: Did any of you throw your rank on the table and say ‘hey, it’s a bad idea to evacuate Bagram Airfield, a strategic airbase, before we evacuate everyone,’” he asked in the Aug. 26 video. “Did anyone do that? And when you didn’t think to do that, did anyone raise their hand and say ‘we completely messed this up.’”

The botched exit created heightened danger for the troops. They all had a lot to lose – including 20 years of victories against the Taliban.

Milley handed Bagram and millions in weapons to the Taliban. The State Dept. gave the Taliban terrorists a  list of American names to help find those in hiding. The State Department warning to shelter in place, to ‘not make an attempt to come to the airport.’

Why were 5000 [AP tally] militants released from Bagram’s detention center known as GITMO 2?

“Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Bagram is a “Taliban-making factory” where innocent people are indiscriminately mixing with extremists and being indoctrinated,” reports Trevor Loudon. (More Terrifying Details On The Bagram Prison Release)


“Thousands of inmates, including former Islamic State and al-Qaeda fighters, were released from a prison on the outskirts of Kabul -Pul-e-Charkhi…as the Taliban demanded a peaceful transition of power. (Source)

“Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Calif., the top Republican on the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, told Fox News that Indian intelligence sources are reporting that the suicide bomber was one of the 7,000 [Fox tally] prisoners housed at Bagram prison, and released by the Taliban last month,” reports Fox News.

This had to be a lightning bolt for a career officer like Scheller processing the loss of 13 – one a personal friend. He saw, like others, the withdrawal was off the rails – a train wreck.

Scheller held prestigious commands. (bio)

He took part in other Non-Combatant Evacuations.

As 1st Battalion, 8th Marines platoon commander, LtCol. Scheller conducted a deployment on the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit. He participated in the Non-Combatant Evacuation of American citizens out of Beirut during the 2006 Israeli/Lebanese conflict.

Scheller served in Afghanistan during the deadliest era of fighting.

In 2010 LtCol. Scheller sought out an Individual Augment deployment to Afghanistan. He spent a year in Paktika and Ghazni provinces while supporting the Army’s 101st Infantry Brigade. He was the infantry subject matter expert for EOD and Route Clearance Platoon operations.

This Marine officer had seen it, done it the hard, but right way like thousands serving with him. And then before the world’s eyes in a stunning campaign, the Taliban seized nearly all of Afghanistan in just over a week.

The day after Scheller shared the Aug 26th video he lost his command.

Scheller served as the battalion commander for the Advanced Infantry Training Battalion at School of Infantry East at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. The hammer came down hard as his notoriety grew.

Scheller explained in a Sept. 16th video why he made the decision to speak out,

“I [saw] key leaders not being held accountable and were abusing their positions of power at the expense of the everyday American. Everything I fought for is counter to that.” 

He believes his son’s futures are contingent on the military’s ability to evolve, which happens through accountability.

His criticism of senior military leaders landed this Marine officer in the brig.

“Scheller is accused of the following offenses under the UCMJ: Article 88: Contempt toward officials, Article 90: Willfully disobeying a superior commissioned officer, Article 92: Failure to obey an order, and Article 133: Conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman, a Marine Corps spokesperson told Task & Purpose.”

“People are lying if they said they didn’t feel a little bit like he did the day he posted the video,” said a commenter on the Air Force subreddit in reaction to the news on Monday that Scheller had been sent to jail.

Read Also: Forgetting history, Milley and top generals threw logistics and lives to Taliban wolves

Having not walked in their boots, few can speak out for Marines.

They say being a Marine is not wishing to be one, but an endless quest to the very last moment of life. As a high-ranking officer, Scheller avoided the mistakes that cost lives. By speaking out, Scheller highlights America was not safe from terror when terror dominated the battlespace. Milley, Austin, Biden empowered the Taliban surrendering the last piece of U.S.- held ground in Afghanistan.

In Scheller, we see a man of honor driven by a nagging conscience. But there are both sides to the military rule. As a leader of troops, Scheller had to maintain discipline, in order to unify and solidify the strength of the force.

Milley, Austin, or McKenzie are not held to the same high bar of conduct that LtCol. Scheller is held to.

“Austin, Milley, McKenzie, they broke the chain of trust and confidence in the American people, says Stu Scheller Sr, the father of LtCol. Scheller.

Great Military leaders protect those they lead.

The USMC takes a chain of failure seriously, as proven when an AAV sank off San Clemente Island during a training accident that went horribly bad.

“The July drowning deaths of eight Marines and a sailor who sank with their amphibious assault vehicle off a California island were the result of poor training, a vehicle in “horrible condition,” and lapsed safety procedures in a rush to deploy an operational AAV platoon, according to a command investigation of the incident reviewed this week by USNI News.”

Three senior officers found themselves relieved of command due to the follow-up investigation.

If the USMC takes chain of failure seriously, why not the Pentagon?

Moral dilemmas, a daily challenge for our extraordinary warriors.

Those who never fought on a battlefield don’t know hard it is. If they had, they would know that our service members face/overcome moral dilemmas every day. They follow orders even when they question those orders. Defining heroism at its best.

Should wearing a ton of brass on a lapel make one impervious to criticism or accountability standards? Maybe in Biden’s Pentagon.

Scheller listened when danger reared its head. This defines him as the kind of man you want watching your back.  LtCol. Scheller doesn’t speak for all Marines, yet many may share his sentiments and applaud his courage.


Read more from Patriot Profiles by Jeanne McKinney

Shades of Benghazi in Afghanistan crisis link to betrayal, profit

Crenshaw says “Reset chessboard” of Afghanistan terror; let military lead

Biden capitulates to Taliban Aug 31st red line while Americans still stranded

About the Author:

Senior Staff Writer for CommDigiNews, Jeanne McKinney is an award-winning writer whose focus and passion is our United States active-duty military members and military news. Her Patriot Profiles offer an inside look at the amazing active-duty men and women in all Armed Services, including U.S. Marine Corps, Navy, Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, and National Guard.

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Jeanne McKinney

Senior Staff Writer for CommDigiNews, Jeanne McKinney is an award-winning writer whose focus and passion is our United States active-duty military members and military news. Her Patriot Profiles offer an inside look at the amazing active-duty men and women in all Armed Services, including U.S. Marine Corps, Navy, Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, and National Guard. Reporting includes first-hand accounts of combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, the fight against violent terror groups, global defense, tactical training and readiness, humanitarian and disaster relief assistance, next-generation defense technology, family survival at home, U.S. port and border protection and illegal immigration, women in combat, honoring the Fallen, Wounded Warriors, Military Working Dogs, Crisis Response, and much more. Starting in 2012, McKinney has won multiple San Diego Press Club “Excellence in Journalism Awards,” including eight “First Place” honors, as well as multiple second and third place recognition for her Patriot Profiles published printed articles. Including awards for Patriot Profiles military films. During the year 2020, McKinney has written and had published dozens of investigative articles in her ongoing fight to preserve America the Republic, the Constitution, and its laws. One such story selected for use in a legal brief in the national fight for 2020 election integrity.