Boardman vet reached great heights in 26-year Navy career

Correspondent photo / Kathryn Adams Retired U.S. Navy Commander David J. DiTallo of Boardman, 57, earned nearly two dozen medals during his 26.5-year service. He retired in 2016.

BOARDMAN — When David DiTallo was in middle school, his family took several vacations to Virginia Beach where he was able to tour the Norfolk, Virginia, Naval Station.

“I was impressed with the loud jets flying over me and the humongous ships, and all of it got my interest going,” he said.

It was the late 1970s, and that fascination with the Navy impacted him to the extent that he eventually chose the Navy as his career.

DiTallo, now 57, received a Navy ROTC scholarship to The Ohio State University, where he spent five years. He was welcomed on campus by the legendary football coach emeritus Woody Hayes, and proudly served as a member of the color guard for Hayes’ memorial service at the OSU Stadium, also known as the Horseshoe.

He is a 1985 graduate of Boardman High School and received a Bachelor of Science degree in accounting in 1990 and then headed to flight school. While waiting to begin flight school, he spent a summer at the Navy Recruiting District in Cleveland, where he was assigned to assist with the Cleveland Air Show.

After being commissioned through the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC), DiTallo began undergraduate flight training in 1991 at the Naval Aviation School in Pensacola, Florida, where he was part of the Helicopter Combat Support Squadron. He got his naval aviator wings in 1993, enabling him to fly jets, helicopters and propeller driven aircraft.

“When given the opportunity to choose one, I chose helicopters. I got my first choice,” he said.

DiTallo was deployed to North Island Naval Air Station in San Diego, where he spent most of his 26.5-year Navy career. He was assigned to the “small boys” — destroyers, frigates or cruisers. He became part of the ship, going away for six months at a time as part of the ship’s company. He worked on ships from San Diego to the Arabian Gulf in the Middle East, and his service took him to Japan, Australia, Thailand and Hong Kong.

“I enjoyed the travel,” DiTallo said.

He said landing a helicopter on a ship is “like landing on a very short driveway, only the driveway is moving.” He has logged more than 2,200 total flight hours and made 860 shipboard landings over his career.

He was then sent to Hawaii from 1997 to the 2000s as a part of the Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron. His last flying assignment was in 2003.

DiTallo then found other nonflying assignments and for three years served as the “flying secretary” to the commander of the Naval Special Warfare Command in California.

He was then selected to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the Federal Executive Fellowship Program for one year, where he was promoted to commander. A naval commander is equivalent to the rank of lieutenant colonel in other branches.

He then served as a military affairs specialist as a naval aviator, which landed him in Washington, D.C., for four years working for the head of the chief of Naval Operations. His service ended at the National Defense University in Washington, D.C.

DiTallo divides his service in the Navy into three parts: the first was spent flying helicopters, the second was being involved in political military affairs, and the third was teaching as a military professor on the faculty at the National Defense University.

“I enjoyed all phases of my career,” he said.

After retiring in 2016, he returned to Boardman.

When asked what he learned in the Navy, he said, “Patience and problem solving. I spent most of my career solving problems.”

He said what he misses most is “having a sense of purpose and direction daily. I miss flying and being out on a ship.”

After retirement, DiTallo has spent time as a YMCA lifeguard, a substitute teacher, enjoying golf, doing yard work and being involved with the veterans organization MOAA: Military Officers Association of America, where he has been on the board of directors since 2018.

He is part of the Mahoning and Shenango Valleys chapter of the national organization, which lobbies for legislation that affects military personnel, and is a big supporter of high school and college ROTC programs.

“I enjoyed flying, it was fun and challenging, I enjoyed the variety of assignments, I enjoyed working under pressure. I learned how to deal with it and get better at it,” DiTallo said.

To suggest a veteran for this series, which runs weekly through Veterans Day, email Metro Editor Marly Reichert at mreichert@tribtoday.com or call her at 330-841-1737.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $2.99/week.

Subscribe Today