A Marine Corps officer who released videos and social media posts harshly critical of senior military leaders over their handling of the U.S. pullout from Afghanistan will receive a punitive letter of reprimand and forfeit $5,000 in pay.
The sentence was handed down Friday to Lt. Col. Stuart Scheller during court-martial proceedings at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. According to local media reports, Col. Glen Hines, the judge in the court-martial, considered docking Lt. Col. Scheller’s pay for two months, but relented because of time already spent in the brig.
Col. Hines also noted that Lt. Col. Scheller, who pleaded guilty on Thursday to five charges including “contempt towards officials” and “failure to obey an order,” had been an exemplary Marine prior to his critical vidoes and social media posts in late August.
A fast-rising battalion commander with 17 years in the Marine Corps, Lt. Col. Scheller was fired after refusing an order to stop releasing the critical videos and other messages.
His attorneys spoke on his behalf during closing arguments at the court-martial.
“For two decades, warriors like Stu Scheller have given their youth, their health, their limbs and sometimes their lives to the cause of freedom. They did so willingly, believing they were fighting for a righteous cause and that senior leadership would have their back,” said Timothy Parlatore, one of the attorneys.
“There has been a persistent, growing feeling that the focus is not on the well-being of the individual Marines and service members — or even mission success — but rather the continuation of an endless war that feeds the military-industrial complex where retired generals and admirals could go make their millions,” Mr. Parlatore added.
Lt. Col. Scheller began posting videos and social media messages soon after the Aug. 26, 2021 suicide attack at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul that killed about 170 Afghan civilians and 13 U.S. service members, mostly Marines. The deaths were not the result of an intelligence failure or tactical error, Mr. Parlatore told the court.
“They died because senior leadership made a conscious decision to abandon Bagram airbase in favor of an indefensible commercial airport in an urban setting. It was widely reported that an … attack was imminent,” he said. “These deaths were entirely predictable and avoidable and the decision to treat them as disposable was made at the highest levels.”
According to an arrangement between Marine Corps officials and the defense team, Lt. Col. Scheller’s discharge will be no worse than “general under honorable conditions.” While he decided to forgo a pension for leaving the service before serving 20 years, he will likely retain some benefits if the deal holds.
Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro has the authority to determine the level of Lt. Col. Scheller’s discharge.