Yes. We know that the character who uttered these words was a contemptuous narcissist in a Marine uniform. He too, was a failed leader who turned a blind eye to the death of a Marine. COL Nathan Jessup, played by Jack Nicholson, was the bad guy in A Few Good Men. Probably the most replayed scene from that movie included him screaming at Tom Cruise, “You can’t handle the truth!”
Now, a real life Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) has been relieved of his command because, well, those above him couldn’t handle the truth.
After the suicide bombings in Afghanistan that left nearly 200 dead, including 13 American military, and rendered the White House completely silent for close to 10 hours, LTC Stuart Scheller issued a video on Facebook.
In this video, he simply asked some serious questions and raised some legitimate concerns. And he did not release the video without giving it some thought.
“I have been fighting for 17 years. I am willing to throw it all away to say to my senior leaders: I demand accountability,” Scheller said.
“What you believe in can only be defined by what you’re willing to risk,” he added. Scheller mentioned that he was putting his retirement, pension, command and family stability on the line by posting the video.
“I think that gives me some moral high ground to demand the same honesty, accountability and integrity from my senior leaders.”
“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.’”
Roughly 18 hours after posting the video, which he said fellow Marines advised him against, he was relieved of his battalion command. It remains to be seen if there is further disciplinary actions taken against him.
In a statement obtained by the Washington Post, the Marine Corps addressed the situation.
“Marine Corps spokesman Maj. Jim Stenger confirmed that Scheller was ‘relieved of command by Col. David Emmel, Commanding Officer of School of Infantry-East due to a loss of trust and confidence in his ability to command.’
‘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 wrote. ‘There is a forum in which Marine leaders can address their disagreements with the chain of command, but it’s not social media.’
As a former leader of soldiers, I side with LTC Scheller. If you aren’t willing to risk everything for what you believe in, do you really believe in it? Is it actually a conviction, or is it more of a convenient argument?
In the Army, we lived by the seven Army values: LDRSHIP.
The acronym stand for Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity and Personal Courage.
While you can see each of those values in what LTC Scheller did and said, it is that last one I want to focus on.
Personal Courage. What does that phrase mean?
Well, here is is from the Army themselves.
“Face fear, danger or adversity (physical or moral). Personal courage has long been associated with our Army. With physical courage, it is a matter of enduring physical duress and at times risking personal safety. Facing moral fear or adversity may be a long, slow process of continuing forward on the right path, especially if taking those actions is not popular with others. You can build your personal courage by daily standing up for and acting upon the things that you know are honorable.”
I know that these are Army values, but the Marines must have something similar, right?
Indeed they do. Honor. Courage. Commitment.
Taken straight from the Marine Corps website:
“Courage The heart of our Core Values, courage is the mental, moral, and physical strength ingrained in Marines that sees them through the challenges of combat and the mastery of fear, and to do what is right, to adhere to a higher standard of personal conduct, to lead by example, and to make tough decisions under stress and pressure. It is the inner strength that enables a Marine to take that extra step.”
So what did Scheller do exactly that violated the Marine Corps values?
He nailed courage. He got Commitment, which says in part, “It promotes the highest order of discipline for unit and self and is the ingredient that instills dedication to Corps and country 24 hours a day, pride, concern for others, and an unrelenting determination to achieve a standard of excellence in every endeavor.”
So, COL Emmel, aside from making you feel uncomfortable, what was the reason you no longer have faith and trust in his ability to command? Given the fact that he lived up to the Marine Corps values, our guess would be…nothing.