What the controversial naval ‘liability’ officer is up to next

Until a series of controversial social media posts demanding accountability from senior military and political leaders led to his eventual military court martial and release, former Marine Lt. Col. Stuart Scheller was now a booming star in the Corps.

“I don’t think I saw an officer consistently, as they say, in the first three blocks of the Christmas tree,” Judge Marine Col. Glen Hines, who oversaw Scheller’s court martial and also sentenced him to death. slight, told the court on Oct. 15. “He was on a constant upward trajectory.”

Now that Scheller is a civilian, kicked out of the Corps under a plea deal just before Christmas, he told the Marine Corps Times in a phone interview that he plans to turn his calls for accountability into action. .

However, that won’t mean running for political office in 2022, as many have speculated. Instead, he teamed up with another Navy veteran – one who had been successful in the private sector – to lead a coalition backing more than two dozen candidates for federal office.

“I think there must be leaders in Congress,” Scheller told the Marine Corps Times on Dec. 26. “Right now we have a bunch of politicians, and I just don’t think that’s enough. They’ve shown that a lot of them don’t have the courage to be up there.

Dubbed the “Disabled Veterans PAC” and hosted on his “Authentic Americans” website, Scheller told the Marine Corps Times that the PAC supports about twenty candidates for the US House of Representatives and five candidates for the US Senate, who have not yet been publicly disclosed.

Although the PAC is non-partisan, Scheller says he currently only supports Republican election candidates and the effort is “evolving.”

Criteria for its support of the PAC include that if elected, candidates will demand more accountability from military leaders and government; invite themselves to be held accountable for what they do in office; and will take substantive action during his tenure, rather than “just talk.” “

More than 90% of disabled veterans candidates supported by the CAP are themselves veterans, says Scheller. The rest either have family in the military or have worked on veterans issues and have been supported by veterans organizations.

The Marine Corps Times does not know where the PAC money is coming from, and public documents give no clue so soon, although the campaign contribution website OpenSecrets.com has shown that the PAC exists, although no donations were reported when the site was last updated on October 18, 2021.

In October 2021, the controversial Pipe Hitter Foundation of former Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher, who represented Scheller in court, helped raise more than $ 2.5 million on Scheller’s behalf.

This money, according to the foundation’s website, was to be used for legal defense, as well as for emergency relief funds, relocation expenses and transition out of the military, possible loss of military benefits and retirement, and family support for his wife and three children. .

Marine Corps Times has contacted the Pipe Hitter Foundation to see if any of that money has been used in the PAC and is awaiting a response.

“At the end of the day, I just want to put leaders who aren’t extreme with their political views,” said Scheller, whose political party affiliation was not available in public records, told the Marine Corps Times, adding that political moderates in the United States have more in common with one another than with ideological factions of the far left or right.

Ultimately, Scheller says he wants to support those who “are ready to show moral courage, stand up for integrity, honesty and come to Washington to be a voice for change.”

Only time will tell how the now well-known name and reputation of Scheller, who lost a small business and saw his wife leave him amid his scheming few months in the limelight, will fare in the civilian arena. and politics.

‘It was my death on a hill’

The search for accountability has been a constant theme for Scheller since his first social media video went viral in late August 2021.

Scheller made this first video, in uniform, shortly after 13 US servicemen, including 11 Marines, a Navy member and a soldier, were killed in a complex August 26 attack centered around a suicide bomber. outside the gates of Hamid Karzai International Airport. in Kabul.

A former infantry officer who fought both in Iraq and more recently in Afghanistan, the then Lt. Col. Battalion Commander saw the haphazard withdrawal from Afghanistan culminate with the biggest loss of American life in near than a decade, he thought talking was the right thing to do.

He hadn’t planned on making any other videos after the premiere.

“My headspace was, ‘This is it,’ Scheller said. “It was my death on a hill. I think it’s important enough that we’re having this conversation.

At the request of his commanding officer, after this first video, Scheller said he returned home for the weekend, being informed that they would resume discussions on the video and the ongoing investigation. Hours later, he received a phone call informing him, without details, that he had been relieved of command of the Forward Infantry Training Battalion at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

A Marine Corps spokesperson at the time told the Marine Corps Times that the final withdrawal from Afghanistan was “obviously an emotional moment for many Marines, and we encourage all those currently struggling to seek advice. or talk to another Marine.There is a forum where Marine leaders can voice their disagreements with the chain of command, but it is not social media.

However, Scheller claims that even though his command sent him back for a psychiatric assessment, no one in his chain of command called to ask how he was, much less to talk about what his future held for him or the content of. his public statements. Scheller said that inaction prompted him to use social media along with other videos.

“I just realized that the Marine Corps didn’t care about me and nobody cared about the content of my statements,” Scheller said. “That’s when I made the second video. I was like, ‘if you don’t care about me, I don’t care about you.

Following Scheller’s second video on August 29, the Marine Corps released a further statement indicating that the service was “aware” of Scheller’s second video and that “the Marine Corps is taking appropriate action to ensure safety and the well-being of Lt. Col. Scheller and his family. As this is a developing situation, we cannot comment further at this time. “

Scheller’s subsequent videos and posts ultimately put him, according to multiple media outlets, with Scheller, his parents and lawyers, but not confirmed by the Marine Corps – under a “gag order” and then in military prison.

While the Marine Corps declined to comment on the specific reason Scheller was taken into custody, Scheller and his parents told the Marine Corps Times it was due to his alleged “risk of theft” status.

“I came to work every day,” Scheller said. “It was a blatant lie.”

Although Hines said during the trial that Scheller’s incarceration, coupled with leaks about his file to the media, “raised the specter of illegal influence from the command,” the Lt. Col. chose to plead guilty to all charges instead of fighting them in court.

“As a guy who says I demand accountability, it just didn’t make sense to me trying to beat the charges when I knew deep down that I had broken some of the rules,” he said.

Fresh eyes

Scheller hopes the candidates backed by his PAC will bring both fresh eyes and accountability to Washington.

A singular example of what this type of accountability might look like is contained in the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act 2022 process recently signed by President Joe Biden.

NDAA 2022 includes $ 25 billion more than requested by the White House and represents almost $ 40 billion in spending more than the previous 2021 NDAA record, despite the disastrous U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and the strong declining confidence of civilians in the military.

For Scheller, the NDAA would have been the perfect opportunity for congressional leaders to hold Afghanistan to account.

“None of them tried to use the DoD budget, which was their only lever of control,” he said. “No member of Congress stood up and said, ‘Hey, show us some efficiency measures. Show us the responsibility ‘.

Instead, said Scheller, Congress once again handed a “blank check” to the Department of Defense without the Department demonstrating its effectiveness or being accountable for the results.

While the effectiveness of the Disabled Veterans CAP probably cannot be measured in the years to come, Veterans’ appetite for responsibility for the past 20 years of war is high.

In December 2021, a bipartisan group of veterans organizations helped secure the inclusion of the Afghanistan War Commission in NDAA 2022. Although it did not produce any results or material that could lead to A move ahead of at least four years, the commission’s inclusion in the NDAA, according to Matt Zeller of Iraqi and Afghan American veterans, is indicative of the latent political power of veterans and veterans organizations.

“Veterans have never been so politically organized,” Zeller told the Marine Corps Times. “So I think if we don’t use the opportunity we have now, then we will have wasted it, and shame on us.”

This is an opportunity that Scheller is trying to capitalize on.

“I love the Marines. I still have a lot of good friends in the Marine Corps, ”said Scheller.

“At the end of the day, I want the military as a whole to be more efficient. I want our foreign policy to be more effective. And I think to do that we need open and transparent conversations.

James R. Webb is a rapid response reporter for Military Times. He served as an infantryman in the US Navy in Iraq. In addition, he worked as a legislative assistant in the United States Senate and as an integrated photographer in Afghanistan.

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