Chartier Valley names 1st Distinguished Alumni award recipient
Jason Deichler thinks back to a day during his freshman year of college at Virginia Tech when he heard from an officer on the USS Dallas about Navy life on a submarine.
It was in that moment he knew he had found his career.
When his dad, James, who later died in 1996, came to visit that following weekend, Deichler remembers sharing his joy.
“I said, ‘Hey dad, remember watching ‘Hunt for Red October?’ … That’s what I’m going to do someday,” said Deichler, now 41 and commander of the USS Pittsburgh.
During his 20 years in the Navy, Deichler, a native of Scott Township, has won many awards. But his most recent honor, being named the first Distinguished Alumnus of Chartiers Valley High School, is especially important to him.
“It’s hard to put into words,” he said.
The newly created Distinguished Alumni award is intended to recognize a Chartiers Valley graduate who has made an impact on the community, the nation and the world, said Superintendent Johannah Vanatta.
Deichler was selected from a list of eight nominees that included Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, Vanatta said. The other nominees will remain on the list and can be selected in future years.
Deichler stood out for his long list of accomplishments, Vanatta said.
“This is Sean Connery in ‘Hunt for Red October,’ ” she said, referencing the same 1990 nautical thriller that Deichler namechecked as an influence. “He’s a pretty big deal.”
At Chartiers Valley, one of the things students are taught is citizenship, Vanatta said.
“What better example for someone who’s an ambassador for the United States Navy and Chartiers Valley than this person?” she said.
Public education is an important part of his life, Deichler said. His dad was a math teacher at South Fayette High School, his sisters are in education and his time at Chartiers Valley helped propel him into the career he has today.
From football coach Gus Marquis telling him he could be a leader in the military, to math teacher Richard “Dick” Schubert sharing stories from his submarine days in World War II, Chartiers Valley made a huge difference in Deichler’s life.
After graduating in 1995, Deichler spent one year at Virginia Tech before his dad died and he returned home to help care for his mother and two younger sisters. He finished college at Carnegie Mellon University, receiving a degree in mathematics.
He was commissioned in the Navy and went through the Navy Nuclear Propulsion program as a submariner.
His career took him to the USS West Virginia, then to Charleston, S.C., where he served as an instructor of a prototype training unit. He’s done several other tours, serving in various roles and climbing the ladder from engineering officer to commander.
His favorite part of it all? The people.
“We do some very high-speed operations, some things that not everyone gets a chance to see or do,” he said. “I get to operate with the best equipment, the best technology our country has to offer. But it’s really truly about the people I work with.”
His daily work includes overseeing 150 of what he calls “the most dedicated men on-board” the submarine. When they’re in port, they’re conducting maintenance, training, studying and reviewing while preparing to go back to sea.
Deichler says it was through qualifications and timing that he was able to lead the USS Pittsburgh. Of course, everyone knows he’s from here, and it was the perfect fit.
Deichler certainly brings the black and gold pride to the ship.
One of his command philosophies is “We are Family,” using the famous Pittsburgh Pirates slogan from the 1970s. Every meeting with his crew is ended with, “Here we go!”
Even the deck of his stateroom is black and gold tile, and he jokes that the room is decked out in “more Pittsburgh paraphernalia than I think people can handle.”
When the USS Pittsburgh recently returned in February from an eight-month deployment, it was greeted by families waving their Terrible Towels from the pier.
“Because I know of these things and the traditions in Pittsburgh, I brought them to the boat,” Deichler said.
He recently returned home to participate in Pittsburgh’s St. Patrick’s Day parade. While back, he visited UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, the Pittsburgh Steelers and, of course, Chartiers Valley.
No matter where he travels, Deichler always shows off his Colt Pride.
“It’s a reflection of how great Chartiers Valley is as a school,” he said of all he’s done. “And for me to be able to spread that word globally is great.”