Cmdr. Travis W. Zettel (left), commanding officer of the Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Bremerton (SSN 698), salutes sideboys during a change of command ceremony on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. (Michael H. Lee/U.S. Navy)
A Navy submarine commander was disciplined and demoted last summer after admitting to paying for female prostitutes while stationed in the Philippines.
Capt. Travis Zettel lost the confidence to command the attack submarine USS Bremerton and was relieved of duty back in August following the investigation.
The investigation by the U.S. Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) was launched following a sailor’s tip to the Department of Defense Inspector General’s hotline, saying Zettel told him he “requested/ordered ten girls to arrive at the hotel,” according to documents obtained by the Kitsap Sun.
The sailor later saw the commander with around 10 “provocatively dressed females outside the front door of the hotel.”
Another sailor also apparently enjoyed the company of women and was seen with three “local females holding onto his arm as he was wandering around” and greeting his fellow sailors.
Commander Australian Fleet Rear Admiral Stuart Mayer, CSC and Bar, RAN, presents Commander Travis Zettel USN (left), with a Commander Australian Fleet Silver Commendation for his achievements as Staff Officer Grade One, Operations Support at HMAS Stirling, Western Australia. (ABIS Chris Beerens)
The incident occurred in March 2018, while being ported in Subic Bay in the Philippines. The criminal investigation began in May.
NCIS agents reportedly confronted Zettel with the allegations. He admitted “culpability in the payment of female accompaniment,” according to the documents released to the publication.
The second accused sailor was interviewed, but he “did not participate in prostitution.” He wasn’t disciplined.
Zettel became the commander of Bremerton, the Navy’s oldest submarine before its recent decommission, in August 2016.
“Becoming the 15th commanding officer of the now 35-year-old ‘American classic’ is a proud moment for me and my family,” Zettel said in 2016 after taking control of the sub.
Following the investigation, he was reassigned to the staff of Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor-based Submarine Squadron 19, Navy officials told the Kitsap Sun.