(USA Features) A Marine officer recently fired for imploring senior Pentagon leadership to take responsibility for the deadly suicide bombing attack that killed U.S. military personnel last week has doubled down, signaling he is willing to go to the mat to change the culture within the Defense Department.
Lt. Col. Stuart Scheller, who posted a Facebook video following the attack asking if any senior Pentagon leaders pushed back on President Joe Biden’s decision to abandon the more easily defended Bagram Air Base in July and instead evacuate from the harder-to-defend airport at Kabul, told the New York Post in brief comments he will continue to push for “accountability.”
“The baby boomer’s turn is over,” he told the paper. “I demand accountability, at all levels. If we don’t get it, I’m bringing it.”
He then went on to quote Thomas Jefferson, adding that “every generation needs a revolution.”
Last week, Scheller said in a four-plus minute video someone in the Pentagon needed to take responsibility for the attack and for the decision to abandon the air base, the primary hub for all U.S. and NATO operations throughout the war.
He specifically identified Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David H. Berger, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley for criticism.
“The reason people are so upset on social media right now is not because the Marine on the battlefield let someone down,” he said.
“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 said.
It is highly irregular and exceedingly rare for a lower-ranking officer to publicly call out senior Pentagon and Defense Department leaders, and Scheller appeared to understand that he was putting his career in jeopardy when he posted the video.
“I have been fighting for 17 years. I am willing to throw it all away to say to my senior leaders, ‘I demand accountability,'” he added.
“I think what you believe in can only be defined by what you’re willing to risk,” he said. “So, I think it gives me some moral high ground to demand the same honesty, integrity, accountability from my senior leaders.”
Scheller said he personally knew one of the Marines killed in Thursday’s attack, adding that “potentially, all those people did die in vain” if no one steps up and accepts responsibility.
Last week, Biden told a Fox News reporter that ultimately he was responsible for the decisions made in Afghanistan as commander-in-chief. But no senior military leader has said as much.
Maj. Jim Stenger, a Marine Corps spokesperson, told the Daily Mail in a statement that Scheller, a battalion commander, was relieved by Col. David Emmel, Commanding Officer of School of Infantry-East, “due to a loss of trust and confidence in his ability to command,” which is standard military jargon.
“This is obviously an emotional time for a lot of Marines, and we encourage anyone struggling right now to seek counseling or talk to a fellow Marine,” Stenger said.
“There is a forum in which Marine leaders can address their disagreements with the chain of command, but it’s not social media,” he added.