A Marine Corps lieutenant colonel who was relieved of command Friday due to a now-viral social media video demanding “accountability” from senior leadership released a new video Sunday, in which he appears to resign his commission as a Marine Corps officer.
Lt. Col. Stuart P. Scheller Jr.’s first video, released Thursday, sparked controversy and support on its way to accumulating more than 800,000 views on Facebook as of Monday morning.
The infantry Marine and battalion commander of the Advanced Infantry Training Battalion at School of Infantry–East at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, said he made the video for his “growing discontent and contempt” of “ineptitude at the foreign policy level.” The video was released the night that 13 service members, including 11 Marines, were killed in an attack at the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan.
“The reason so many people are upset on social media right now is not because the Marine on the battlefield let someone down,” Scheller said, noting that those service members always have risen to the occasion. “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 went on to ask if the secretary of defense or chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, which includes the commandant, threw their rank on the table and said, “Hey, it’s a bad idea to evacuate Bagram Airfield, a strategic air base, before we evacuate everyone? 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.’”
Scheller’s first video came with an influx of support.
“I would follow this man through the gates of hell with an MRE spoon,” a Marine veteran who served under Scheller in 2017 wrote Marine Corps Times in a message.
At the time Scheller was a major and company commander at The Basic School 26-week course at Quantico, Virginia.
On Facebook, one commenter wrote, “Absolutely honored and proud of you for saying what needed to be said. The cost of incompetence is permanent for those young men.”
The post garnered 2,400 likes as of Monday.
On Friday, in a public Facebook post, Scheller wrote that he had “been relieved for cause based on a lack of trust and confidence as of 14:30.”
Marine Corps Times reached out to Scheller for comment and did not receive a response.
“My chain of command is doing exactly what I would do… if I were in their shoes,” Scheller wrote Friday. “I appreciate the opportunities AITB command provided. To all the news agencies asking for interviews… I will not be making any statements other than what’s on my social platforms until I exit the Marine Corps.”
Friday evening Maj. Jim Stenger confirmed that Scheller was relieved of command by Col. David Emmel, commanding officer of the School of Infantry–East, “due to loss of trust and confidence in his ability to command.”
Although Scheller initially stated that he would not be making any further statements on social media, he released a second video over the weekend in which he said he was resigning his commission from the Marine Corps.
“I could stay in the Marine Corps for another three years, but I don’t think that’s the path I’m on,” Scheller said in his Sunday video, reportedly taken from an abandoned school bus in North Carolina. “I’m resigning my commission as a United States Marine effective now. I’m sure there’s some more admin or knows what to do that, and I’ll work through that.”
Scheller went on to say that he has no interest in retirement or VA benefits he would qualify for. Instead, he still seeks accountability from senior leadership.
“I think [senior leaders], accepting accountability would do more for service members and PTSD and struggling with purpose than any other transparent piece of paper or message,” Scheller said.
While Scheller’s first video was well-received by those who spoke to Marine Corps Times, his second video raised concern surrounding Scheller’s well-being.
A Marine who served with Scheller, but wished to remain anonymous due to the videos’ attention, said that the recent deaths of 11 Marines, a Navy corpsman and a soldier in Kabul, Afghanistan, could be taking a toll.
“He’s always been an infantry officer, meaning there’s a 100 percent guarantee that he has seen Marines get blown to pieces for absolutely no reason while the top brass advanced their careers with impunity despite their many failures,” said the Marine, who deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan.
Despite these concerns, the Marine echoed the sentiment of the first Marine’s sentiments: that Scheller was a superb leader of Marines.
“Stuart Scheller was my commanding officer during my last deployment. He was the kind of officer who always put his Marines first,” he said. “Naturally, we knew there’s no way he was ever going to make general with that kind of selfless leadership style.”
The Marine Corps is “aware of the video Lt. Col. Scheller released on Sunday afternoon,” spokesman Capt. Sam Stephenson told Marine Corps Times Monday. “Currently, the Marine Corps is taking appropriate action to ensure the safety and well-being of Lt. Col. Scheller and his family. As this is a developing situation, we cannot comment further at this time.”
Scheller wrote an update on his LinkedIn page Monday afternoon, “When I went into work this morning, I was ordered by my commanding officer to go to the Hospital for a mental health screening. I was evaluated by the mental health specialists and then sent on my way. My CO is a standup guy, and I understand why he did it,” he wrote.
He later said in the post, “Third, for all my followers… I’m not going anywhere. Everyone is scared that the weight of the system is crashing down on me. But I know something you don’t… it’s the system that’s going to break. Not me.”
Scheller’s awards and decorations, according to Stephenson, include the National Defense Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal (three times), Army Commendation Medal, Army Commendation Medal with combat “V,” Iraq Campaign Medal, Navy Unit Commendation (three times), Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation (two times), Humanitarian Service Medal (two times), Joint Meritorious Unit Award, NATO Medal-ISAF Afghanistan, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Combat Action Ribbon, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon (five times), Bronze Star Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal (three times), Korean Defense Service Medal, Marine Corps Combat Instructor Ribbon, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and the Afghanistan Campaign Medal.
Marine Corps Times reporter Philip Athey contributed to this report.
James R. Webb is a rapid response reporter for Military Times. He served as a US Marine infantryman in Iraq. Additionally, he has worked as a Legislative Assistant in the US Senate and as an embedded photographer in Afghanistan.
Andrea Scott is editor of Marine Corps Times.