by Robert M. Traxler
Love of country, patriotism, duty, honor, fidelity to the flag are neither cuss words nor evil concepts.
Let’s talk about Marine Lt. Col. Stuart Scheller, a field grade officer who was apparently on the fast track for advancement; selection for command is a step toward the next promotion, and LTC Scheller was in command of a battalion when he became front and center in the news.
He posted videos condemning and being disrespectful to the chain of command. I watched both of his videos a number of times, and have no doubt in my military mind LTC Scheller violated the Uniform Code of Military Justice. A serving member of the military has no free speech or absolute truth protections, none. His words are punishable and unprofessional.
Do I agree with him? Absolutely, but that does not matter one bit. LTC Scheller made a video and posted it on two Internet sites for the public and his Marines to view, and in the video, he was disrespectful to the President and a number of others in his chain of command, serving officers or noncommissioned officers — just cannot be allowed to do that.
The video was made in his office on Camp Lejeune while he was in uniform; that just cannot be allowed in a military unit. LTC Scheller I am sure would not hesitate to punish a member of his battalion who openly and publicly was disrespectful to him.
One of the legal concepts in military justice is proportional punishment. Placing LTC Scheller in pretrial confinement was a mistake, and under normal circumstances would not be authorized. He was not a flight risk, nor a violent criminal; house or unit arrest would have been appropriate.
Common sense has now prevailed, and he has been released from the brig. Command influence is not tolerated in the military justice system; it is not allowed and must be avoided to insure a fair legal process. However, it is apparent in this case.
Military records are a matter of extenuation and mitigation, but no defense. LTC Schuller’s outstanding service to the Marine Corps and our nation during 17 years of honorable service has no impact on his guilt or innocence. It should be considered in the sentencing phase of a military justice procedure, criminal, nonjudicial, or even administrative, but has no impact on his guilt or innocence.
LTC Schuller objected to our surrender in Afghanistan, as do I and some others; however, it is no defense for the unprofessional and illegal actions he took to register his objections to our national policy and the chain of command.
I have written before and remain convinced of the sanctity of the chain of command, including the civilian authority over the armed services. It must remain in effect for our nation to follow the Constitution and not disintegrate into a socialist dictatorship propped up by the military.
LTC Schuller has dropped off the news cycle, which is good for him and our nation; we should not treat a disgraced (at best) or a criminal officer (at worst) as some kind of hero. A proper procedure for him would have been to resign his commission, and then speak out.
If LTC Schuller had been eligible for retirement, retired, and then publicly disrespected the chain of command, he could have been recalled to active duty and court marshalled. Though the law allows this, it is rarely done.
Being relieved from command for cause is a disgrace most civilians do not fully understand, or realize just how humiliating it is. Being punished under Article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice would be appropriate in this case; an official letter of reprimand could be placed in his file and his voluntary resignation accepted.
Bottom line, LTC Schuller must be punished for his actions. However, stacking five charges against him and pushing for decades in confinement is not justice but revenge. He has been disgraced and a reprimand would send the proper message to serving officers and noncommissioned officers that the chain of command is not to be publicly questioned by a serving officer, to include the civilian members.