Ex-north Carroll Teams Captain Continues To Fly High

December 16, 1990|By Glenn Graham | Glenn Graham,Staff writer

Steve DePalmer was captain of the varsity soccer and basketball teams in his senior year at North Carroll in 1981.

Today, he is a captain for a different team at a different place.

DePalmer, a 27-year-old captain for the U.S. Air Force, is a F-15 fighter pilot and has been stationed in Keflavik, Iceland -- just outside of the capital city of Reykjavik -- since last December.

What is life like at the extreme southwest tip of Iceland?

"It's different," DePalmer said, "You learn to appreciate the United States a lot more -- the convenience, lifestyle and being able to do anything you want whenever you want.

"The weather conditions are also very different. There is a lot of snow, wind and ice, which make landing and taking off tricky at times.

Surprisingly, the temperature rarely drops below zero -- except when there is a high wind chill.

"It is a very remote, unaccompanied location. In the winter, the sun comes up at 11:30 (a.m.) and goes down at 3:30 (p.m.). In the summer, we have 20 hours of daylight. On Fourth of July we had a golf tournament with the first tee-off at midnight," he said.

DePalmer has been flying the F-15 Eagle for five years.

Costing approximately $30 million, the one-seat jet carries eight missiles plus an internal gun and reaches speeds greater than Mach 2 -- which is more than twice the speed of sound.

"I've been there," DePalmer said of reaching such great speeds. "It's quite a challenge flying a $30 million jet."

After graduating from North Carroll, he was appointed to the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., and graduated in 1985.

"I started looking into it (the Air Force Academy) my freshman year in high school. They have a good academic program, and it gave me an opportunity to fly," he said.

After a year at flight school in Del Rio, Texas, he was stationed at Langley Air Force Base in Hampton, Va., until last December, when he was transferred to Iceland.

"My job here is to intercept and identify all unknown aircraft, mostly Soviet, that run through Iceland possibly to the United States," DePalmer said.

"I also fly dogfighting missions with other pilots to maintain our dogfighting skills," he added.

When he's not intercepting aircraft or sharpening his dogfight skills, DePalmer can often be found doing the same things he did so well at North Carroll -- playing soccer and basketball.

An all-county selection his senior year in both sports, DePalmer still takes time to visit his former coaches when he gets back to Carroll County.

"He was everything you would want in a student-athlete," North Carroll basketball coach Pete Litchka said, "A great, great person. He was a real overachiever on the (basketball) court and had great leadership skills. We were thrilled when he got accepted into the Air Force Academy."

On the soccer pitch, DePalmer played center defender for some of coach Ed Powelson's strongest teams.

"That kid could play all day," Powelson said. "He was a highly skilled player who knew the game well and led by doing. He was also very intelligent, and it was a pleasure to have coached him."

The next time he visits home, he will be a married man.

Last February, he met his wife-to-be, Sheila Daniels, a Wilmington, Del., native who teaches special education in Wildflecken, Germany. They will be married in Iceland on Friday.

"I met her at the Officer's Club (in Iceland)," DePalmer said. "The night we met, she just received her transfer to Germany, and she was reluctant at first to give me the time of day. Since then, we've had a lot of fun."

With the activity dropping off significantly in Iceland, DePalmer would like to return to Langley soon and then help the cause in Saudi Arabia.

"When I was at Langley, we trained specifically for any kind of conflict in the Middle East. I'm more than qualified to fly and have a lot of friends I'd like to help from Langley who are already there," DePalmer said.

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