The top officer of a Marine Corps aviation unit was canned in April after an investigator ruled that he fraternized with and sexually harassed a married sergeant, according to a command investigation obtained by Military Times.
Lt. Col. Christopher Kinsey had commanded the Center of Naval Aviation Technical Training-Marine Unit New River in North Carolina since 2017. Naval Education and Training Command announced his relief last month.
The name of the female sergeant who allegedly was subjected to Kinsey’s anytime text messages and invites to go swimming was redacted in the report released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.
Also cloaked were the investigating officer’s recommendations, aside from one “that the allegation of sexual harassment be substantiated.”
“The definition of sexual harassment is met by the facts revealed in this investigation," the report states.
The alleged misdeeds occurred in February, after the woman arrived at the command and developed what the investigation determined was a good reputation among her colleagues, according to the investigation completed by Marine Corps Installations East-Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune.
“LtCol Kinsey made repeated unwelcome verbal comments and gestures of a sexual nature during face-to-face interactions…that negatively affected her emotional and psychological welfare and interfered with her work performance,” the investigator wrote.
Kinsey could not be independently reached for comment and his civilian attorney, Eric Kopka, did not return calls seeking comment.
In a written March statement, Kinsey insisted he had never sexually harassed the sergeant or any other Marine during his 28-year career.
“I maintain an open door policy for all of my Marines, regardless of rank, and I believe in intrusive leadership, knowing who my Marines are, interacting with them on a daily basis, and remaining available to them for guidance whether it is in person or through electronic communications,” he wrote.
Staff members describe Kinsey as “very personable” and told the investigator that he “interacts with nearly everyone in the command.”
Marine Corps spokesman Nathaniel Fahy said Thursday that any further disciplinary action against Kinsey “Is still pending adjudication and currently under the cognizance of the commander, Marine Corps Installations Command.”
Both Kinsey and the sergeant are married but live apart from their spouses, according to the probe.
The investigator chides Kinsey for his “casual and friendly text messages” with the Marine during the day, night and weekends.
“These are inappropriate communications between a commanding officer and a (Marine) within his chain-of-command,” the report states.
The sergeant was “enamored and attracted to her Commanding Officer, LtCol Kinsey, with an aspiration to gain his attention and approval,” the report states.
The investigators characterized the days between Feb. 9 and Feb. 18 as a period of fraternization, but from the 19th to the 25th of that month Kinsey’s “reckless conduct” grew to include “unwelcome sexual advances.”
Kinsey spoke of meritoriously advancing the Marine, and while he “did not explicitly communicate acceptance of his subtle sexual advances as a condition of career (advancement), he had implicitly done so on multiple occasions by voicing comments concerning his intention to meritoriously promote (the Marine),” the report states.
He gave the sergeant a lift on Feb. 19 and told her she was “testing his moral compass” while looking at her “as if she was an ‘object on display,’” the investigator wrote.
The two went swimming at the base later that day, and again Kinsey told the sergeant repeated that she was testing his moral compass, according to the report.
He also “moved closer to her in the pool and suggested that they sink to the bottom of the pool so she can give him a hug,” the report states.
Kinsey denied this and other allegations in an interview with the investigator, according to the report.
Kinsey winked at her during a graduation ceremony the following day and selected her for a position that would bring her closer to his office “for personal reasons,” the investigator wrote.
The sergeant’s immediate chain noticed a difference in the woman’s disposition along the way.
On Feb. 25, she went to his office and he told her she should change his name in her phone to “something sexy,” according to the report.
She didn’t have her swimsuit that day, so Kinsey asked if she was wearing a sports bra and “threw a pair of his PT shorts in her lap,” insisting “that she then has what she needs to swim with him that afternoon,” the report states.
“I always have extra PT shorts and would lend my PT gear to other Marines if they need it,” he told the investigator.
While the sergeant grew uncomfortable with texting her CO every day, she didn’t show it in the texts, according to the report.
“However, her statement clearly articulated her apprehension toward LtCol Kinsey,” the investigator wrote. “Other family members were also informed of her worries.”
On Feb. 13, during swim talk, Kinsey texted “I can help you with some techniques,” and she told him he looked younger than another Marine whose name is redacted.
At one point, the sergeant texted Kinsey late after she had been drinking to say she hoped he was having a good night.
Kinsey told the investigating officer that he regularly texted with other Marines about meals and exercise, according to the report.
When the investigator asked whether Kinsey typically sends “late evening text(s)” to his NCOs, Kinsey told her that “nutrition is a topic that I routinely discuss with others.”
The investigator showed Kinsey a text he sent to the sergeant at one point that read “hope ur day was amazing” and had a heart emoji at the end.
“I showed LtCol Kinsey the text and he was surprised to see it and denied sending the emoji,” the investigator wrote.
Geoff is a senior staff reporter for Military Times, focusing on the Navy. He covered Iraq and Afghanistan extensively and was most recently a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. He welcomes any and all kinds of tips at firstname.lastname@example.org.