“He was following the orders he was given.” At this point, former Lt. Col. Stuart Scheller despises those words and carries special disdain for officers who use some configuration of the phrase to justify why they did something that ultimately hurt someone or harmed the mission.
In many ways, it was the persistent echo of these words that sparked his (some would say ill-fated) decision to post a YouTube video a year ago this week that eventually landed him in the brig with a special court martial and an abrupt end to a long, promising career in the Marines before his 20-year retirement. It also cost him his wife, separation from his young boys, and rebuke from colleagues and former officers indulging in seeming schadenfreude during the ensuing spectacle.
In his forthcoming book, Crisis of Command: How We Lost Trust and Confidence in America’s Generals and Politicians, Scheller recounts watching the news coverage of the U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan last August. A lieutenant colonel with 17 years in the Marine Corps, including combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, Scheller had just taken over his first command of the Advanced Infantry Training Battalion in North Carolina in June 2021. He writes:
I watched multiple units, including my first unit, First Battalion, Eighth Marines, rapidly respond to a situation poorly planned for months. I knew from experience junior service members on the ground would rise to the occasion despite failures at the general officer level, but I remained frustrated at the situation.
Read the full piece in The American Spectator.