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Commander of Ranger training battalion relieved over ‘derogatory comments’

The battalion commander overseeing Ranger School’s Mountain Phase at Camp Frank D. Merrill, Georgia, was relieved Nov. 20 after an investigation substantiated complaints that he made “derogatory comments to subordinates,” according to Army officials.

Maj. Gen. Patrick Donahoe, who leads the Maneuver Center of Excellence and Fort Benning, relieved the 5th Ranger Training Battalion commander “due to his inability to uphold professional standards of conduct,” a statement from the general reads.

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

Army officials did not provide the commander’s name due to privacy restrictions.

Task and Purpose, which first reported the news, noted that Lt. Col. Scott Basso had recently been replaced with Lt. Col. Derek Johnson as the commander of the battalion on the unit’s website. Command Sgt. Maj. John Howerton has retained the senior enlisted position.

MCoE spokesman Ben Garrett said the 5th Ranger Training Battalion commander was first suspended Oct. 30, pending the completion of the investigation.

“The Army’s number one priority is our people,“ Donahoe’s statement reads. “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.”

The exact nature of the complaint, and other details from the investigation, was not provided by officials and will have to be requested by Army Times through a Freedom of Information Act request.

Penalties for Army leaders have been common this month, following the release of an independent committee’s report on the command climate at Fort Hood, Texas.

However, Fort Benning’s investigation, and action taken against the battalion commander, predated the release of that report.

The Fort Hood report determined that there was an environment at Fort Hood that allowed sexual assault and harassment to proliferate, triggering the relief and suspension of 14 leaders, including the post’s acting commander.

The report also found that Army CID special agents at the post were under-experienced and over-assigned — an issue that career special agents told Army Times was not unique to Fort Hood.

This weekend, Army leaders also suspended the battalion commander and command sergeant major from the 602nd Aviation Support Battalion at Camp Humphreys, South Korea, amid “allegations of racism, bigotry and discrimination” that were made via an anonymous tip line. Exact details of those allegations were also not immediately provided.

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