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An Army Ranger commander was relieved for making ‘derogatory’ comments

Ranger students rappel during the Mountain Phase of the U.S. Army Ranger School. (U.S. Army photo by Patrick A. Albright, Maneuver Center of Excellence and Fort Benning Public Affairs)
December 22, 2020

The commander in charge of training for the Ranger School’s Mountain Phase was relieved of command last month after an investigation determined he made “derogatory comments to subordinates.”

In a statement to Task & Purpose this week, Maj. Gen. Patrick Donahoe, the commander of the Maneuver Center of Excellence (MCoE) and Fort Benning, Ga. confirmed he relieved the 5th Ranger Training Battalion commander “due to his inability to uphold professional standards of conduct.”

“The allegations were reported to the MCoE command and thoroughly investigated, substantiating the allegations of unprofessional behavior,” Donahoe told Task & Purpose. “These allegations included the use of derogatory comments to subordinates in the commander’s formation.”

The Army did not provide further specifics about the allegations against the relieved battalion commander. Donahoe and other Army leaders also did not identify the 5th Ranger Training Battalion commander who was relieved, but an archived command page on the unit’s website previously identified the commander of the unit as Lt. Col. Scott A. Basso, while the current unit command web page lists Lt. Col. Derek E. Johnson as the unit’s current commander.

MCoE spokesman Ben Garrett said the 5th Ranger Training Battalion commander was first suspended on Oct. 30, while an investigation into the alleged misconduct was ongoing.

“The Army, Training and Doctrine Command, Maneuver Center of Excellence and Fort Benning command teams take action on all allegations of misconduct; to hold people accountable, maintain trust throughout the chain of command and ensure all are treated with dignity and respect,” Garrett told Task and Purpose.

Ranger school consists of three distinct phases, including the initial training stage at Fort Benning, the Mountain phase at Camp Frank D. Merrill in the north Georgia mountains, and the Florida or “Swamp” phase. The 5th Ranger Training Battalion is in charge of conducting the mountain phase, which consists of military mountaineering training, self-sustainability in rugged terrain and amid harsh weather conditions, as well as “hunger, mental and physical fatigue, and the emotional stress.”

The disciplinary action comes as the Army has taken several new efforts to address problems with leadership in recent months. Task and Purpose reported an Army battalion commander and command sergeant major were similarly suspended in Korea amid a pending investigation into allegations of “racism, bigotry, and discrimination.” A recently concluded review of the command environment at Fort Hood also saw 14 leaders at the Army base suspended or otherwise relieved of their duty after the review found a “command climate at Fort Hood that was permissive of sexual harassment and sexual assault.”

In this latest case of disciplinary action within the ranks, Donahoe told Military Times, “The Army’s number one priority is our people. People First means taking care of our Soldiers, making sure they feel valued and supported by their teammates, leadership and community and always treating others with dignity and respect.”