The commander of a multi-billion dollar American warship was fired on the eve of its Middle East deployment last year after a drunken night out with his subordinates led to mess of an evening at a bar near Yorktown Naval Weapons Station in Virginia, allegations of sexual harassment and a reported history of inappropriate behavior comments brought down the skipper of the cruiser Anzio last summer on the eve of its Middle East deployment, Navy Times has learned according to an official new report on the 2015 firing.
Capt. Brian Sorenson’s 25-year military career began to unravel hit the skids Aug.ust 30, when he and several junior officers assigned to the cruiser Anzio attended his wardroom procured the duty van and headed to Yorktown Pub for a "wetting down" party at a bar in Yorktown, Virginia. He is As most in the group grew of the officers got steadily more intoxicated, the CO is accused of engaging in a highly inappropriate conversation with a woman who worked for him subordinate one of his female junior officers, allegedly propositioning her for sex in exchange for career advancement and also asking her about specific sex actsher if she liked anal sex, according to a Navy investigation report obtained Thursday Feb. 4 [[[THIS WEEK?//A.deG.]]] by Navy Times via the Freedom of Information Act.
The report also includes allegations There were was also allegations from a female officer in Sorenson’s wardroom who told investigators that Sorenson grabbed her buttocks while they were in the bar. It is unclear if the complaint was made by the same woman or another, as the Navy's report is heavily redacted.
Last month, Sorenson was found guilty of violating the Uniform Code of Military Justice. An admiral has recommended the captain be separated from the service.
Reached by email, Sorenson declined to comment on the Navy's report. His attorney, Greg McCormack, provided a brief statement to Navy Times indicating the captain intends to appeal his case.
"Capt. Sorenson has an exemplary service record and has provided 25 years of outstanding naval service to our country," McCormack said. "We look forward to this legal process, which will provide a forum for the truth to prevail."
The Navy's investigation was conducted by Carrier Strike Group 8, Anzio's parent command. The ship which is the Truman strike group currently deployed in the Middle East. Anzio and its crew of about 350 are in the Middle East currently as part of the Truman carrier strike group. They are tasked with providing air defense for the aircraft carrier.
According to the Navy's report, the woman with whom Sorenson allegedly sought to have sex was nearing the The next day the junior officer, who was closing in on her deadline to receive for getting her surface warfare officer qualification. She told investigators that the day after their group outing in Yorktown, claims Sorenson sat her down in his cabin and asked her if she would sleep have sex with him in exchange for her SWO pin, a Navy uniform device that denotes an that the officer has achieved all basic qualifications required of the service's surface warfare community. [[[LET'S EXPLAIN WHAT THIS IS, FOR THE LAYPERSON//A.deG.]]]
The woman's name is redacted in the report. As a rule, Navy Times does not identify the alleged victims of sexual assault or harassment.
Word of the alleged encounter in Sorenson's cabin spread among his crew, ations and rampant rumors on the deckplates prompting the ship's executive officer and top enlisted sailor command master chief to initiated a command investigation that ultimately ended with Sorenson’s firing relief in mid-September. On At Admiral's Mast oOn Jan. 4, Sorenson was found guilty of violating the service's sexual harassment guidelines, of committing sexual misconduct and of conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman, said counts under the UCMJ by Rear Adm. Bret Batchelder at Admiral’s Mast on three counts under the UCMJ. Rear Adm. Bret Batchelder, commander of Carrier Strike Group 8, concluded that found Capt. Sorenson violated three articles of the Military's legal code, including violating a lawful order -- in this case the sexual harassment guidelines, sexual misconduct for "abusive sexual contact", and conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman," said Lt. Cmdr. Myers Vasquez, a spokesman for Naval Surface Force Atlantic.
Sorenson was given a punitive letter of reprimand. The carrier strike group's commander, Rear Adm. Bret Batchelder, also recommended the captain be separated from the Navy detached for cause and be made to show cause for retention in the Navy, Vasquez said.
Sorenson elected not to submit a The captain's statement to investigators, according to a Navy attorney familiar with the case, but on what transpired that night a synopsis of the investigators' interview with him was included in the report provided to Navy Times. Investigators noted that while Sorenson did admitted drinking too much, he excess. He declined, however, to answer questions about the allegations he made sexual advances. any inappropriate comments made outside the bar or in his stateroom without his attorney present.
When reached by email, Sorenson declined to comment directly on the report. In a statement, his attorney Greg McCormack said the truth would come out through the ongoing legal process.
"Capt. Sorenson has an exemplary service record and has provided 25 years of outstanding Naval service to our country," McCormack said. "We look forward to this legal process, which will provide a forum for the truth to prevail."
Sorenson, a 1991 Naval Academy graduate, will likely now have to face an administrative board to determine if he should be retained in the service, and he'll be allowed to argue where he can press his side of the story before the board's members. Under the non-judicial punishment process, Sorenson was found guilty based on the preponderance of evidence, not beyond a reasonable doubt.
Sorenson, who assumed command of Anzio in November 2014, was reassigned to SURFLANT. Earlier in 2015, he led a relatively junior Anzio crew in the multi-national Joint Warrior exercise — the largest of its kind in Europe. Prior to taking Anzio's helm, he had served as commodore of Afloat Training Group Atlantic; commanding officer of destroyer Mitscher; and deputy commodore for Destroyer Squadron 26. Sorenson is a 1991 Naval Academy graduate.
The night at the bar in Yorktown that wrecked Sorenson’s career began started as a promotion party. The so-called "wetting down" was held at a bar in Yorktown while Anzio was being loaded with ammunition in town getting its load of ammo load-out of ammo ahead of its her November deployment in November.
The wardroom — a naval term for the ship's officers — hopped in a government van to the bar at 6 p.m. When they arrived at the bar, several to the bar, a bar where lots of enlisted crew members were there drinking as well, the report says. The officers, including Sorenson, began quizzing the woman junior officer a young woman who was closing in on the deadline for her SWO quals on about the responsibilities expected of an officer of the deck knowledge, a position of significance among the ship's crew.
During the evening, many of the officers became intoxicated, according to the Navy's report. At one point, Sorenson allegedly approached the woman and asked her to that she meet him on a bench outside the bar, the report says.
The two shared a cigarette, and Sorenson allegedly asked if she would have sex with perform oral sex on him, according the report. The woman thought it was a joke, and said she would in exchange for her surface warfare officer pin, the report says. He continued pressing her on sex, a claim that was backed up by witnesses in the report.
A crew member who was outside the bar on his phone, talking to his grandmother, overheard the commander making explicit remarks to the woman and asking her about specific sexual acts, according to the report. claimed he heard the CO ask the officer "Does anal interest you?"Other sailors told investigators that they were uncomfortable seeing Sorenson and the junior officer sitting so close together. One sailors remarked that the scene looked like an example from one of the Navy’s sexual assault prevention training videos, the investigation says.
As the night wore on, it and got sloppier. One sailor told investigators that the officers' behavior grew sloppier, one sailor told investigators were completely out of line.
"The whole night the officers were acting like hooligans," the sailors said in his statement to investigators. "I used to be a [bartender] and could tell that the get-together of the officers was turning into a sludge-fest. And if I was serving the officers, I would have cut them off."
Sorenson was intoxicated when he got into the van to go back to the ship, according to the report. Witnesses told investigators that the captain kept repeating two phrases: "The crew is all that matters" and "f--- the crew," the report says.
The next morning, as rumors of the officers’ behavior drunken antics circulated on the deck plates, Sorenson allegedly the CO summoned the woman junior officer to his stateroom to discuss her surface warfare qualifications, the report states. When she entered the room, Sorenson allegedly asked her to hang a "Privacy Please" sign on the outside of the door. The officer told investigators that that's when Sorenson propositioned her, according to the Navy's report.
"If I give you your SWO pin, will you sleep with me?" her statement reads.
When she refused, Sorenson allegedly made more suggestive remarks, . He then he asked her more suggestive questions and then proceeded to before finally turning to asking her questions about navigation rules and other knowledge required of the officer of the deck, the report states questions. He then signed her OOD letter and she left the room very distraught, the woman told investigators.
The guided-missile cruiser Anzio, seen here in the Atlantic Ocean during a training exercise in late September.
Photo Credit: Mass Communication Specialist Seaman L. E. Skelton/Released
The investigator notes that the allegations are "he said, she said," investigators wrote in the report, adding that the third-party witness testimony about Sorenson’s alleged behavior discussion questioning her sexual preferences and history the night before made the woman's statements made in private more credible. Additionally, the investigator concluded in the report, the officer had little if nothing to gain by making unfounded allegations, especially with her qualifications deadline looming.
The junior officer confided in others about Sorenson’s alleged propositions, and the rumors circulated with vigor, the report says. As the situation began to spin out of control, the XO and command master chief approached Sorenson and told him they were going to recommend a carrier strike group-led investigation into the allegations. When investigators interviewed others on the ship, peeled back the onion, they heard from multiple of the female officers who reported having been made to feel uncomfortable by Sorenson. One even kept a logbook detailing interactions with Sorenson that she deemed creepy, the report says creeped her out.
"Capt. Brian Sorenson should not return to command of USS Anzio or any other command, at sea or at shore," the investigating officer wrote in the report's opinions. "Strong consideration should be given to charging Sorenson with violations of the UCMJ."
Rear Adm. Bret Batchelder, the strike group commander, largely agreed with the recommendations and opinions and signed the letter of endorsement Oct. 15.