A Marine lieutenant colonel who posted videos criticizing the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and other senior military leaders for their roles in the Afghanistan withdrawal was given a letter of reprimand and ordered to forfeit $5,000 in pay.
Lt. Col. Stu Scheller posted a video on Aug. 26 condemning U.S. military leaders for the chaotic removal of troops from Afghanistan and demanded accountability for the 13 service members who were killed in a bombing by the Islamic State terrorist group, or ISIS.
The lieutenant colonel was accused of failure to obey orders, dereliction of duty, conduct unbecoming an officer, and other conduct charges. He pleaded guilty to all charges on Thursday.
Tim Parlatore, his attorney, previously said that Scheller would plead guilty as a sign of accountability and to "show the generals what accountability looks like.”
Scheller's sentencing of one month docked pay was less than the six months the Marine Corps trial counsel had been seeking. A military judge at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina said he reviewed a 600-page investigation into Scheller's conduct and watched the videos he posted.
“The court saw someone in pain, who was confused and frustrated,” Marine Corps Judge Col. Glen Hines said, seeming to empathize with the lieutenant colonel.
The judge also reviewed Scheller's military record and found “glowing reports” of his service, telling the court that Scheller had an "outstanding record before this one-month course of conduct."
Hines, however, noted that Scheller must be held responsible because "the court doesn’t condone these offenses in this case."
"Those who deviate… must be held accountable,” the judge said.
Scheller made the video hours after the attack at Abbey Gate at the Kabul airport. He served in Afghanistan and said he knew someone who was killed in the attack.
"People are upset because their senior leaders let them down, and none of them are raising their hands and accepting accountability or saying we messed this up," he said in the video.
"I have been fighting for 17 years," Scheller continued. "I am willing to throw it all away to say to my senior leaders I demand accountability."
The video went viral on social media and Scheller continued to post more, going against orders from higher-ups. In one video, he said he would file charges against the commander of U.S. Central Command, Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie, saying, “Senior leaders need to be held accountable the same as us.”
In a Sept. 25 Facebook post, Scheller dared his commanding officer to arrest him. He spent more than a week in military jail and following his release, Scheller teamed up with the Pipe Hitter Foundation, a nonprofit organization started by former Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher, whom former President Donald Trump pardoned for his role in the murder of an ISIS prisoner. The lieutenant colonel and the foundation have raised more than $2 million for him and his family.
In charging sheets, obtained by the military blog Task and Purpose, the Marine Corps alleges that Scheller made statements that seemed to incite protest, such as “every generation needs a revolution.” Defense Department regulations limit service members from protesting and advocating for revolution. The charges, however, relate to his videos, and his alleged statement about revolution does not appear in the videos.
Parlatore has said that claims his client was inciting a revolution were “a complete distraction.”
Not long after the videos were posted, Scheller was relieved of command at the School of Infantry-East at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Maj. Jim Stenger, a Marine Corps spokesperson, said Scheller was relieved "due to a loss of trust and confidence in his ability to command."
He later resigned his commission and now it’s up to the Secretary of the Navy to decide the manner of his discharge from the Marine Corps. Parlatore previously said he is asking for an honorable discharge.