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Assessing Why a Marine LTC puts his Career on the Line

When I went into state government as a law-school clerk in 1969 I was told by the Department chairman that we were all public servants, and that every day when we go to work we put our jobs on the line with that single rule in mind. I was 23 at the time and was fairly cynical about platitudes so it sounded like a church platitude.

About 2 1/2 years later, and immersed in the strip-mining battles, which our office regulated, and the son of a mine engineer, I got a good sense of the agency’s management style when one day, out of the blue, the Strip-mining Deputy, without so much as a briefing or even a Don’t-do list, apparently having found better things to do that afternoon, handed me a file and sent me over to the Capitol Building to sit in on a monthly hearing about setting pollution standards for water-run off along all of Kentucky’s waterways. (You may not know this, but Kentucky has more miles of “shoreline” than every state in the union but Alaska.) With the info-packet I listened to three hours of presentations by industry and environmental groups, including the City of Cincinnati, across the Ohio River, which was the largest discharger of waste into the Ohio River, which was legally Kentucky property because we were the first to become a state.

(For what it’s worth, the Environmental Movement had not yet turned full-bore Left. That would not happen until the two-three law classes of behind me had graduated, and the state would have to build a whole new office complex to house them. But we had had America’s first Earth Day, April 22, 1970 a few months earlier, only very few knowing that was also Lenin’s 100th birthday. I later called it the “biggest hoax the Left every perpetrated” during the Obama years.)

Anyway, the witnesses had their say, and our 9-member panel then had to vote. Two unexpected votes carried the vote to the environmentalists’ side of the debate, and my vote was one of those votes. With no instructions to the contrary I just voted how I saw things, only next morning I woke up to see that vote headlined in the Kentucky’s newspaper-of-record, “The Louisville Courier-Journal”, my name mentioned prominently as one of the hero’s who broke new ground against the business establishment.

Of course, I was a hero on campus, but later that next afternoon, after I showed up to the state office building, that same Department chairman who gave me that song-and-dance about “putting my job on the line” called me in to tell me I had been reassigned to a small office across town where they sorted mailers. And that was where I spent the remainder of the year before I graduated.

After I graduated from law school I went directly into the Army (for 5 years) primarily as a criminal defense attorney, which clarified most of my misconceptions about liberalism, and which was stampeded by the elitist leftist pigsty by the time I left the Army in 1976, just before the 1976 Democratic National Convention, where they finally took over…and the name “Nancy Pelosi” first came to national attention.

So, against the backdrop of three years in a state regulatory agency, then three years in a major US Army command in the Far East, I was able to make some interesting comparisons, with the US military jettisoning its old-style management system after the Vietnam War ended with some similarities to what we are seeing now in Afghanistan. I jotted down some of those similarities only days ago, comparing the collapse of Saigon with the collapse of Afghanistan  with some first-hand accounts with principals in both Vietnam and the management changes in how the new post-Vietnam US military would be organized.

With that in mind I offer some insights about the thinking that might have been going on in the head of LTC Stuart Scheller, who posted this Facebook video only this past Thursday, August 26.

For background, Stuart Scheller had been commissioned in the Marines in 2005 after graduating from the University of Cincinnati. I’m guessing his birth date to be around1984, or about 38 years old now. He has been an active-duty Marine for 16 years,

First, LTC Scheller was not “fired”. Military members can only be “fired” by being separated from the service, which is by court-martial, administrative separation, or medical reasons. LTC Scheller was simply removed from his current position, a battalion commander, which I’m told, is a high-profile training position, which would normally place him on high on the promotion ladder. In short, a good career laid in front of him and perhaps even better on in the private sector defense establishment after retirement.

Considering the current political climate inside all the military branches, actually going back more than a decade, long before Donald Trump came on the scene, I’m sure that Scheller is viewed as both a hero for the things he said in the video… but also as a dangerous cowboy, for even in the combat branches of the services, there are those who might agree with him patriotically, but who also feel he has brought shame to the Corps.

In short, internal politics, where, even in times of war there are a lot of currents. (Note the petty jealousies Ike got back in desk-bound Washington as he went from star-to-star-to-star, out-of-sequence as they say, bypassing a lot of senior officers. Most of the major commanders in Hawaii on December 6, found themselves riding desks in Washington shortly after Dec 7, 1941, and many with a chip on their shoulder that “it wasn’t my fault.”). Wars are won or lost based on the leaders who have the clearer focus of victory, and America is blessed that we had a George C Marshall who could reach into a pile of talent to find an Eisenhower and a Nimitz, who in turn could pick the best of the best to those battles on the ground and sea.

In all the branches, at the rank of Colonel (in the Navy “Captain”) the services tend to be split up between those seeking promotion…the jump from a colonel to brigadier general is a very big deal…that second and third star often coming at whoever’s star you were able to attach yourself to…plus the “mission first” crowd, most usually found in times of war. For instance, my 3-star in Japan, a Korean War tank hero named Dolvin, had been Creighton Abram’s Chief of Staff in Vietnam, so when Abrams moved to Washington to become Army Chief of Staff in ’72, Dolvin got his third star and moved to Japan (where I was already stationed.) and the command elevate to a Major Army Command…all post Paris Peace Accords. (Of course, I knew none of the bigger history of this at the time.) But when Abrams died in ’74 and a new Army Chief of Staff was named, all the former Abrams team retied, en masse. And there were retributions, for Dolvin had a 2-star named Maples down at Okinawa who he was on the verge of relieving of his command because of some misuse of his U-21 personal aircraft, (a CID investigation going on for months) just before he went to Washington for Abrams’ funeral. When he returned, a new Chief of Staff named, Maples had been given his third star, and named IG of the Army, and the CID investigation dropped. (A funny “gotcha” story there as the Japan-CID chief, a colonel, who didn’t like me, came under this retribution investigation by Maples’ people, suddenly came to me for legal help once Maples turned on them. A back-handed compliment, it really pained him to have to seek help from me.)

The internal command politics can be rough and one thing you can make book on, without a serious military mission, those internal politics of military command can get petty and out of hand.

I have to assume LTC Scheller, when he made that video was well aware of the career-risks he was running. If he has a family, they’re likely on board, as well. And having joined the Marines in 2005, under Bush, the Iraq and Afghanistan (and Iran) events happening all over the Middle East, he, far better than a “garritrooper” like me, would have known the centers of politics inside the Corps, and the levels of resistance his command structure put up against the Obama years. His latest assignment as a battalion commander of training, recognized him as one the Corps’ best teachers of the art of war, and in my years of hanging around officer’s clubs, I know that when a captain with a CIB speaks, the LTC’s and COL’s without one generally politely listen, even if the subject is whether Jack Nicklaus was better than Arnold Palmer. Deference.

I doubt that Scheller wants to jeopardize the 16 earned years toward retirement, but he also knows that a single letter of reprimand in his personnel file can insure he’ll be stuck away in a paper mill and retire as a lieutenant-colonel, and not full colonel. (Big bucks there.) But as I said, that depends on who’s yanking the chains upstairs at Central Command. But it also depends on who’s waiting on the outside to hire him.

Time will tell.

The manner in which he delivered this Facebook statement suggests to me, at least, that it was from the heart. And that probably no one put him up to it. I also expect he carries a lot of weight with rank of file. And was seen my most of them.

So time will tell.

Here’s praying for Stuart Scheller. And America.

vassarbushmills
Citizen With Bark On

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