Carnegie Mellon University
November 26, 2019

Service at Sea

By Emily Payne

Jocelyn Duffy
  • Associate Dean for Communications, MCS

Cmdr. Jason Deichler knew three variables: he was good at math (x), he wanted to serve his country (y) and he wanted to find a way to put x and y together.

“I grew up around a very strong background for service to our country,” said the Pittsburgh native.

Deichler had a number of mentors in his life who helped guide his path toward becoming a Navy submariner. His father was a math teacher, his grandfather a World War II Navy veteran and later a firefighter and his high school math teacher and mentor was a World War II submariner.

When it came time to decide on a college, the choice was obvious, said Deichler. Not only did Carnegie Mellon University have a strong mathematical sciences program but it also offered Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC).

After graduating in 1999, Deichler became a commissioned naval officer and received his first assignment on the USS Virginia. He served as the chemistry and radiological controls assistant, damage control assistant and quality assurance officer while completing four strategic deterrent patrols.

“By the time I left my first submarine, I felt I could (become a commander)."

He recalls how his data analysis course at Carnegie Mellon played a key role in learning the ropes of the submarine. “I was efficient at combing through all the raw data from the reactor plant to understand trends, fit those to an analysis and predict any type of material failure or mechanical failure,” he said.

As a more senior officer, Deichler learned how to drive the submarine and how to be the officer of the deck. “After about a year, I earned my warfare qualification pin as a fully qualified submarine warfare officer.”

Deichler then chose to specialize as an engineer, for which he earned his master’s in engineering from Old Dominion University. He later served as the engineering officer aboard the USS Springfield and as an executive officer, the second in command, of the USS Ashville.

Naturally, the next goal for Deichler was to become a commanding officer. “The pinnacle of a naval officer’s career is to command at sea,” he said. Deichler remembers that upon stepping on his first submarine as a 21-year-old officer, he was immediately a leader. “I was in charge of leading 15 personnel more senior than me even though I had no experience on a submarine. That challenge was phenomenal to me.

“By the time I left my first submarine, I felt I could (become a commander),” he said.

But the stars aligned even more perfectly when the day came for Deichler to take the helm as commanding officer off the USS Pittsburgh in January 2018.

“We call it a namesake city,” Deichler said of commanding a submarine named after his hometown.

Even more poetically, Deichler is the submarine's last commander. The USS Pittsburgh, commissioned in 1983, is part of the oldest class of fast-attack submarines. The submarine — which operated in Desert Storm in 1991 and both Iraq Wars, including Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2002 — was recently decommissioned and will eventually be recycled.

On the USS Pittsburgh, Deichler commanded a crew of 150 people and led the sub on missions covering 39,000 nautical miles in the Atlantic Ocean, which included driving under the ice in the Arctic to take the submarine on its final deployment to the U.S. European Command Operations in Germany.

The opportunity to serve his country for the last 20 years has been one of the greatest and most challenging honors, Deichler said.   

Some missions have taken Deichler underwater for up to 60 days without any means of communication. “There are times I find out news that happened two years ago and it’s not part of my history because I was underneath the water.”

While it’s hard to be away from his family, “at the end of the day, my goal is to make my wife and my children proud with what I do. At the end of the day, I know what I do makes a difference,” said Deichler.

Throughout his service, Deichler has earned two Meritorious Service Medals, five Navy Commendation Medals and two Navy Achievement Medals.