Editor’s note: This is an op-ed and, as such, the opinions expressed are those of the author.
Another United States Marine assigned to the Marine Corps Training and Education Command recently was imprisoned in the brig.
Lt. Col. Stuart Scheller was a battalion commander at the Advanced Infantry Training Battalion at School of Infantry–East when on Aug. 26 he publicly asked for accountability of senior leaders in regard to the mishandlings of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.
In the not-so-distant past, another Marine under that same command suffered the same fate: Cpl. Thae Ohu.
Cpl. Thae Ohu sat in the brig for 328 days while facing assault charges stemming from trauma and post-traumatic stress from a previous sexual assault.
The same legal playbook used against Ohu was then strategized against a well-decorated and respected Marine leader, which solidifies the notion that no Marine is safe.
The Corps’ first step is to conduct a mental health evaluation and try to shape the narrative that the Marine is unfit for duty, that post-traumatic stress is the culprit for their demands of accountability and justice.
From Scheller’s Facebook page on Aug. 30, “When I went into work this morning, I was ordered by my commanding officer to go to the hospital for a mental health screening.”
After the evaluation was completed, he was sent on his way.
The second step was activated when the mental evaluation was ineffective in his case.
In order for the Corps to have the media “upper hand,” they mobilized efforts and established a gag order. With immediacy, the Corps reportedly ordered Scheller to refrain from posting any and all material, in any form without exception, to any social media.
In this context, the term “social media” shall be construed very broadly to include any medium by which one may share information with groups of people. It includes more traditional forms of social media (e.g., Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn) as well nontraditional methods one might use to circumvent established social media (e.g., mass emails, group text messages, electronic bulletin boards).
He also was prohibited from communicating through third parties or proxies.
And finally, when the Corps couldn’t silence him, they locked him up in the brig — just like Ohu.
They isolated him in prison. They provided him with nothing to write with or to read. They intimidated and shamed him. They wanted him kept quiet especially during a week where the same leaders that he called out were being held accountable by senators.
Ohu and Scheller both demanded accountability of senior leaders, Ohu by exposing the mishandlings of sexual assault and Scheller by his questions of accountability. Both ended up shackled in isolation. Regardless of rank, the reality for our Marines is to assimilate to the corruption or become the enemy.
What is the fate of our country when our own servicemen and women are being silenced, locked away and removed from the very institution we as Americans believe will protect and defend us against all enemies — foreign and domestic?
Since 1945, the U.S. rarely has achieved meaningful victory, but when anyone demands answerability of senior leaders, the institutions are quick to eliminate the threat of real transparency and accountability. Why is that?
Without the accountability of our leaders — military and political, we cannot heal as a country and we will not evolve. The future is bleak.
This unjustly reckless system will continue to create instability for our troops, retain unfit leaders and destroy the American way of life.
Kerri Jeter is the founder of Freedom Sisters Media and communications director for Never Alone Advocacy.
She served in the U.S. Army for 12 years, starting as a private first class and exiting as a senior captain. During her time in service, she served in human resources, finance, training and public affairs, building critical and lasting systems for the Army that are still being utilized today.
Jeter won the prestigious title Ms. Veteran America 2015, advocating for her sisters-in-arms who had fallen on hard times.
After her own journey of self-discovery and embracing her entrepreneurial spirit Jeter launched Freedom Sisters Media to create content, connection and community for women beyond the uniform.
Editor’s note: If you would like to respond, or have an editorial of your own you would like to submit, please contact Marine Corps Times editor Andrea Scott, email@example.com.