USMC Veteran Lt. Col. Stu Scheller resigned his commission as the result of a plea deal stuck for his decision to speak out about holding leaders accountable for their actions. This idea of accountability is something that is drilled into the head of every service member. From boot camp, they are consistently told that they are accountable for their actions; good or bad. Anyone who serves sees shining examples of people accepting their accountability, and examples of deflecting it as well. Civilians see it too, but not with the same level of worry those serving gain from seeing it.
Speaking with Breitbart Editor in Chief Alex Marlow, Scheller makes it very clear just how convoluted things have become. “Military leaders that should be advising on [Afghanistan] absolutely can be held accountable, and it just goes back to [how] we’ve been lionizing the military. People want to show appreciation, and criticizing them almost feels un-American. But the truth is, we need criticism of those general officers more than we ever have before to help the junior service member.”
The highest levels of service members are the ones making the biggest of big picture decisions. They are the ones who truly can destroy or make a career with just the stroke of the pen. These people don’t start escaping bad decisions when they get stars on their chest/shoulders; it starts years before that. Right around the rank of Lieutenant Colonel is where officers start to become ‘untouchable.’ While the field grades start one rank earlier at Major, at the rank of Major you often aren’t given the decisions to make that don’t have someone looking over your shoulder to make sure it’s the proper move.
Once you pin on Lieutenant Colonel, it is usually the start of carte blanche. While in rare cases you can have your feet held to the fire for bad decisions or the decisions of those below you, unless you do something with wide public attention as Scheller did, you are home free. This freedom, in turn, poisons junior service members when they see high ranks walking away without accountability. It also isn’t exclusive to officers. With the enlisted ranks, it starts around Staff Sergeant. At that rank or higher, a DUI or domestic incident is often brushed under the carpet while the servicemember fights the charge or they plead guilty to a lesser charge. This is a system many are trying to change with little luck.
In the meantime, Scheller will continue to advocate for people to answer for what they did, now as a Veteran instead of an active Marine. His change in status could help him reach the people he needs to reach without all the red tape. Continuing, Scheller saw a lot of problems at the highest levels that he wants to see addressed.
“Now they’re saying, ‘We need to mature the force. We need to look at distributed operations. We need to do all these different things on a tactical level.’ That’s not where we’re failing. We need to hold general officers accountable at the operational level. We need to hold the secretary of defense…how you do that is you hold general officers accountable… People in war die, everybody knows that, but we can’t give a free pass based on bad planning, bad decisions, and say, ‘Well, people died but that’s the cost of war.’ Yes, people die in war, but we still have to hold people accountable to a standard of, ‘Did you make good decisions? Did you set the framework to protect people?’…We attacked people bringing water to needy people and we killed civilians and children, and no one was held accountable,” he said. “I think [CENTCOM Commander] General McKenzie is the number one guy that should be held accountable.”