MILITARY MATTERS: Ranger Icon Passes Away, Name Lives On Through Best Ranger Competition

Published: Sep. 21, 2022 at 10:51 PM EDT
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FORT BENNING, Ga. (WTVM) - A legendary ranger, with deep roots on Fort Benning, has passed away at 97 years old. The Army’s Best Ranger Competition, which happens every year, is named after him.

“I’m not ashamed to say I cried, because not only did we lose a great hero, I lost a friend,” MSG (Ret) Howard “Max” Mullin told us, as a friend and fellow veteran who served with the icon.

Mullin calls Retired Lt. General David Grange Junior one of the greatest generals and rangers the Army has seen. He first met LTG Grange in Korea in 1978, where the 2nd Infantry Division commander took 20 minutes from his busy schedule to talk to the new Army private, eventually pinning a combat infantryman’s badge on him overseas, and changing his life.

“He told me being a Ranger is very difficult, but if you have the perseverance, you can make it happen. I said I really want to be a Ranger, then he said we’re going to set you up for success, " Mullin told us. “This man is my hero. He took a particular interest in me, a skinny kid and when he spoke to me, he was genuine. I wanted to emulate him.” Retired Master Sgt. Max Mullin followed in his footsteps, becoming a ranger instructor, and doing combat jumps overseas.

LTG Grange was a decorated veteran of World War II, Korea and Vietnam. During his 41 years of service, he wore a lot of hats including infantry paratrooper and rifle platoon leader in combat, going on to be Army staff officer at the Pentagon and leading the Ranger department at the Infantry School.

In 1982, a friend of his created the David E. Grange Best Ranger Competition, still an annual grueling battle between the best of the best on Fort Benning.

“Dick Leandry (his friend) wanted to create this as a way of recognizing LTG (Ret) Grange for his service,” Airborne & Ranger Training Brigade Commander on Ft. Benning COL Chris Hammonds said.

“General Grange would show up at every Best Ranger competition, walk around, spoke to the competitors and people. The people just gravitated toward General Grange,” Mullin added.

He says the competition is an incredible way to carry on the name of a God-fearing combat leader and ranger who stayed humble.

“He left a profound impact on my life. We hear all this racial stuff...but this man, he looked at my character,” Mullin said.

“Seeing all the things he survived and thrived through, his different combat services, I think one of the most notable things I’ve seen written about him, he didn’t go around trying to make his legacy,” COL Hammonds told us.

It’s a legacy that the current Airborne & Ranger training brigade commander calls “immeasurable,” and they plan to have tributes to this legendary Ranger on Fort Benning in the near future.