By Jano Tantongco
U.S. Air Force Captain Joseph DeMonte IV, a 2003 graduate of Commack High School, was recently accepted into the selective U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School and will begin his training this summer.
DeMonte, 30, who grew up in Dix Hills, will start his test pilot training at Edwards Air Force Base in California in June 2016. Upon graduating the 48-week program, he will earn his second master’s degree, this time a Master of Science Degree in flight test engineering.
Congressman Steve Israel (D-Huntington), who nominated DeMonte for the U.S. Air Force Academy nearly 13 years ago, said Wednesday he was “pleased” to learn the news. Israel said, “All of Huntington is proud of Joe and I wish him continued success and thank him for his service to our country.
“When I nominated him for the United States Air Force Academy I knew that his incredible academic achievement and ambition would help him achieve great things.”
Growing up in Dix Hills, DeMonte said he was raised in a family that “cherished cars, hot rods and racing.”
He, however, decided to pursue a different interest.
“Flying a jet… was something that no one else in my family had taken an interest in,” he said.
DeMonte said he was always fascinated by aviation, and had an innate interest in serving his country. He was a junior at Commack High School when terrorists attacked the World Trade Center on 9/11, an event that further pushed him into military service.
During his senior year, he was able to apply to the U.S. Air Force Academy after he was nominated by Congressman Israel. Unfortunately, in February 2003, he received a letter saying he was not accepted.
“Initially, I was pretty bummed,” DeMonte said. “I wasn’t quite sure what path I was going to take.”
However, in May, Israel called DeMonte and informed him that he had been accepted. A month later, DeMonte reported to Colorado Springs, Colorado for basic training, causing him to miss both his prom and graduation ceremony.
In 2007 he graduated from the academy with a B.S. in aeronautical engineering, and soon was assigned to the Vance Air Force Base in Oklahoma. He embarked on the first half of his pilot training in the T-6 Texan, the staple training aircraft for new Air Force pilots.
DeMonte finally earned his wings in April 2009 when he completed the second half of his training, this time at Naval Air Station Corpus Christi in Texas.
Later that year, he was stationed at the Peterson Air Force base in Colorado Springs. While at the base, he earned a Master of Science degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Colorado.
In 2011, he was deployed to Afghanistan. There, he piloted the C-130 Hercules, a transport aircraft that DeMonte mainly piloted to fly into remote locations in the mountains. He would later become the owner of a Bernese mountain dog, which he named “Hercules.”
“Big dog, big plane, I figured they’d go hand-in-hand,” he said.
Often, DeMonte would have to land and take off on runways made of rock, dirt or aluminum, after dark, while equipped with night vision goggles. He added that, the C-130 Hercules is capable of reverse thrust to help the aircraft slow down on landings, typically causing a “brown-out,” a dust cloud that further impairs visibility.
“It’s a pretty exhilarating experience,” he said.
Shortly after he returned from Afghanistan, DeMonte was promoted to captain, a rank he maintains today. His next deployment was in 2012, a second stint in Afghanistan where he piloted the MC12, an electro-optical infrared sensor-equipped aircraft designed for intelligence-gathering for ground forces.
“He did it all by himself. It’s very impressive to see a young person make such sacrifice with his life,” DeMonte’s mother, Kim, said. While he was on base, Kim said, she and her son remained connected through Skype, an online communication service.
DeMonte’s third deployment saw him stationed in the Arabian Peninsula region in 2013 where he, once again, utilized the C-130.
However, in May 2014, DeMonte was assigned to Columbus Air Force Base in Mississippi where he remains today as an instructor for the T-6, the aircraft with which he began his piloting career.
When he’s not operating aircraft himself, DeMonte said he enjoys flying to Boston to visit his girlfriend, Ashley. Although he said he could use some more practice, he said that he also enjoys playing golf.
When asked of his most memorable achievement, DeMonte pointed to “playing my part in history, just to be a part of it and help out the guys on the ground, whether it’s resupplying with air drops or providing them with oversight.
“[It’s] being able to contribute to something bigger than myself on several occasions.”