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Navy removed Pearl Harbor sub commander for bringing 10 prostitutes to hotel, report says

  • COURTESY U.S. NAVY

    Cmdr. Travis W. Zettel, left, then-commanding officer of the Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Bremerton, saluted during a change of command ceremony on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in August 2016.

When the Pearl Harbor submarine USS Bremerton, the oldest commissioned sub in the Navy, made a stop in the Philippines on its farewell tour on March 1, Cmdr. Travis W. Zettel said he and his crew were “looking forward to the opportunity to engage with the local community.”

As it turned out, the Navy was less than pleased with the sub skipper’s choice of engagement, which included paying for 10 prostitutes at once, according to a published report.

Naval Criminal Investigative Service agents were alerted that Zettel had told two other sailors at a hotel pool that he had “requested/ordered 10 girls to arrive at the hotel,” according to the Kitsap Sun newspaper in Washington state.

One of the sailors saw Zettel with about 10 “provocatively dressed females” outside the entrance of the hotel, the newspaper reported.

Zettel later admitted to Navy investigators that he paid for “female accompaniment,” according to the Kitsap Sun, which cited documents released to it through a federal Freedom of Information Act request.

Another Navy member had three “local females holding onto his arm as he was wandering around” and greeting sailors from his command, the newspaper said.

The Bremerton returned to Pearl Harbor for the final time on April 6, and Zettel was relieved of command in August. Navy officials cited a loss of confidence in the sub skipper’s ability to command but were cryptic about the reasons for the removal.

Petty Officer 1st Class Amanda Gray, a spokeswoman with Submarine Group 9 in Bangor, Wash., said at the time that the removal stemmed from “questions of inappropriate personal conduct.”

Gray today referred questions about Zettel’s removal to NCIS, which couldn’t immediately be reached. Gray said she was unsure of Zettel’s current position.

After his removal Zettel was reassigned to the staff of Submarine Squadron 19 at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor.

The 362-foot Bremerton, nicknamed “Bad Fish,” was commissioned in 1981. The completion of a six-month deployment to the Western Pacific April marked the end of the sub’s 37 years of active service. The sub made five foreign port visits.

“In six months, we took the nation’s longest-serving submarine more than 42,000 nautical miles, executing multiple missions in some of the toughest and busiest environments in the world,” Master Chief Fire Control Technician Wade Jacobson, one of about 150 crew members, said at the time in a Navy release.

The Los Angeles-class sub sailed for Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor shortly after for inactivation and decommissioning. The Kitsap Sun said an investigation began in May after a sailor reported Zettel’s behavior to the Defense Department’s Inspector General hotline.

NCIS interviewed the other sailor who was seen with “local females” but did not pursue disciplinary action, the newspaper said.

Zettel, a more than 20-year Navy officer, said on his LinkedIn page that he was commander of the Bremerton from August 2016 to August 2018, “exercising independent command at sea of a $1.5 billion asset with an annual operating budget of nearly $5 million.” He said he is now a “transitioning naval officer.”

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