Republicans Call on Marine Corps to Release Lt. Col. Stu Scheller, Jailed after Criticizing Afghanistan Withdrawal

Stuart Scheller
Facebook/Stuart Scheller

Republicans in the House and Senate are calling on the Marine Corps to release Marine Lt. Col. Stuart Scheller, who was thrown in a military jail this week after he criticized military leadership for the botched Afghanistan withdrawal on social media and continued posting about his disposition.

According to a Marine Corps spokesperson, Scheller is currently in pre-trial confinement in the Regional Brig for Marine Corps Installations East aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune pending an Article 32 preliminary hearing. The time, date, and location of the proceedings have not been determined.

The Marine Corps notes that he has not been charged with anything but the “general nature” of offenses being considered at the hearing are:

  • Article 88 (contempt toward officials)
  • Article 90 (willfully disobeying superior commissioned officer)
  • Article 92 (failure to obey lawful general orders)
  • Article 133 (conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman)

Scheller first caught the nation’s attention after he posted a short video of himself on Facebook criticizing his leadership on August 26, the day that 11 Marines, one Navy corpsman, and one Army soldier were killed during the Biden administration’s hastily-planned non-combatant evacuation operation in Kabul.

A Taliban fighter stands guard at the site of the August 26 twin suicide bombs, which killed scores of people including 13 US troops, at Kabul airport on August 27, 2021. (Photo by WAKIL KOHSAR / AFP) (Photo by WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP via Getty Images)

A Taliban fighter stands guard at the site of the August 26 twin suicide bombs, which killed scores of people including 13 US troops, at Kabul airport on August 27, 2021. (Wakil Kohsar/AFP via Getty Images)

Scheller, a battalion commander with 17 years of active duty, said he knew he was risking his career by speaking but demanded accountability for the disastrous withdrawal that saw thousands of desperate Afghans rush to the airport, some falling from C-17s as they tried to cling to the aircraft, and the deaths and woundings of American service members and nearly 200 Afghan civilians.

The reason people are so upset on social media right now is not because the Marine on the battlefield let someone down. … 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.’ If an O-5 battalion commander has the simplest live-fire, EO complaint — boom, fired.

He called out his Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Mark Milley, and others. His video went viral. As of September 30, it has been shared about 66,000 times and has 77,000 likes and 10,000 comments.

Stuart Scheller / Facebook

Scheller was fired the very next day, becoming the only military officer to be punished in relation to the Afghanistan withdrawal. He then submitted his resignation letter, but according to his parents, the Marine Corps rejected his resignation letter.

On Monday, his parents wrote in an update:

It is with a heavy heart that we, his parents, are informing you that our son, Lt. Col. Stuart Scheller, has been incarcerated by the USMC this morning, September 27, 2021. He was issued a Gag order which he broke this weekend by posting on social media.

Recently, Stu asked to resign; The USMC told us, his parents, that our son serves at the pleasure of the President. They have not accepted his resignation.

Army veteran Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) asked Austin about Scheller during a Senate hearing on the withdrawal on Tuesday:

Obviously, this is an issue on which many of our troops and our veterans feel very passionately…One of those service members, Marine Colonel Stuart Scheller posted a very critical video on social media last month and he was relieved of his command for that posting. Media reports today indicate that he is being held in pretrial confinement. Why is that?

Austin referred Cotton to the Marine Corps, saying, “I don’t have any specifics of what caused him to be held in pretrial confinement, and I would certainly ask the Marines to provide that insight.”

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin (C), Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley (L) and Commander of U.S. Central Command Gen. Kenneth McKenzie (R) testify during a hearing before Senate Armed Services Committee at Dirksen Senate Office Building September 28, 2021 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Lloyd Austin (C), Mark Milley (L), and Commander of U.S. Central Command Gen. Kenneth McKenzie (R) testify during a hearing before Senate Armed Services Committee at Dirksen Senate Office Building September 28, 2021, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The next day, more than 30 House Republicans issued a letter to the Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger asking that Scheller be released from confinement. Led by Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX), they wrote:

The purpose of this letter is to request an expedited review and removal of LTC Scheller from pretrial confinement.

As you know, Rule for Court Martial (R.C.M.) 305 (h) (2) (B), outlines that within 24, 48, and 72 hours of confinement, the service member’s commander must make a determination or show just cause that it is reasonably foreseeable that the service member: will not appear at trial, pretrial hearing, or investigation, or will engage in serious criminal misconduct, and that lesser forms of restraint are inadequate.

In fact, this confinement appears to be simply for messaging, retribution, and convenience in flagrant violation of R.C.M. 305(h)(2)(B) “a person should not be confined as a mere matter of convenience.” Furthermore, R.C.M. 305(h)(2)(B) also states that LTC Scheller should be accommodated in the “less serious forms of restraint.” For the above reasons, we urge you to use your considerable authority to correct this misapplication of law and immediately remove LTC Scheller from his confinement.

Given his excellent record and more than 15 years of dedicated service, we do not believe and have seen no evidence that LTC Sheller poses a grave risk of criminal misconduct. It is our understanding that some member offices have emailed the governments counsel Mr. Troy Campbell troy.h.campbell@usmc.mil with no response or feedback on the upcoming reevaluation hearing. It is imperative that Members of Congress be afforded an opportunity to conduct their oversight duties with respect to military justice. For the aforementioned reasons we request that LTC Scheller be released from pretrial confinement and be housed in the least restrictive form of housing.

The letter was also signed by GOP Reps. Madison Cawthorn, Lauren Boebert, Jeff Duncan, Buddy Carter, Ben Cline, Andy Biggs, Bob Good, Diana Harshbarger, Paul Gosar, Thomas Massie, Bill Posey, Barry Moore, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Daniel Webster, David Rouzer, Dan Bishop, Mary Miller, Andrew Clyde, Randy Weber, Matt Gaetz, Glenn Grothman, Debbie Lesko, Ralph Norman, Andy Harris, Doug LaMalfa, Barry Loudermilk, Billy Long, John Carter, Matthew Rosendale, James Comer, Warren Davidson, and August Pfluger.

Many of the members made their own statements on Twitter:

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