Doug Roach, Spaatz #1, 1942 – 2013

(Courtesy of Civil Air Patrol National Headquarters)

Civil Air Patrol’s First Spaatz Award Recipient Dies After Distinguished Public Service Career

Decorated CAP cadet from Michigan became a skilled Air Force combat pilot who flew with the Thunderbirds and served as a trusted congressional aide.

Retired Col. Douglas C. Roach as an Air Force Thunderbird pilot (left) and in conversation at a Spaatz Association dinner about five years ago.(Left photo courtesy of Michael Jacobssen; right photo courtesy of Mike Murphy.)
Retired Col. Douglas C. Roach as an Air Force Thunderbird pilot (left) and in conversation at a Spaatz Association dinner about five years ago.
(Left photo courtesy of Michael Jacobssen; right photo courtesy of Mike Murphy.)

MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. – Douglas C. Roach, the first recipient of Civil Air Patrol’s highest cadet award, the General Carl A. Spaatz Award, died Jan. 11 at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, D.C., from complications related to cancer. He was 70.

“The Spaatz Association wishes to express its deep regret and condolences in the passing of Doug Roach,” said retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Ted Bowlds, the association’s president. “As the first Spaatz award recipient, Doug certainly set the standard in the qualities represented in all Spaatz recipients that followed. We have him and his family in our thoughts and prayers.”

Roach made Civil Air Patrol and Spaatz history as a Michigan Wing cadet in the 1960s. He was born in Romulus, Mich., on Nov. 18, 1942.

“Doug was handpicked by Jack Sorenson (CAP’s cadet program leader at the time) to be tested for the first Spaatz,” said Col. Larry Trick, a Spaatz recipient and former president of the association. “Jack noticed Doug in 1962 at the National Cadet Competition, where he was commander of the Michigan Wing drill team that won the competition that year.”

Trick said the Spaatz test in its infancy was handwritten, with mostly essay-type questions. Today the test has evolved into a more sophisticated, multi-step process, but the Spaatz award remains the most coveted of CAP’s cadet honors.

Named after the first chief of staff of the Air Force and the first chairman of the CAP National Board, the Spaatz award is presented to cadets who demonstrate excellence in leadership, character, fitness and aerospace education. Cadets typically qualify for the award after devoting an average of five years to progress through 16 achievements in the CAP Cadet Program.

Click image for virtual memorial.

Once a cadet achieves the award, he or she is entitled to the grade of cadet colonel. On average, only two cadets in 1,000 earn the Spaatz award. Since the award’s inception in 1964, CAP has presented the Spaatz award to less than 1,900 cadets.

Roach became a highly decorated officer and skilled U.S. Air Force pilot. After flying 516 combat missions during several tours in Vietnam between 1969 and 1972, he was a pilot with the Air Force flight performance team, the Thunderbirds, from 1973-75. He began with the aerial demonstration team flying Thunderbird #6 when the team flew the F-4 Phantom and he served as the team’s logistics officer. Roach retired from the Air Force with the rank of colonel.

Despite the notoriety he gained above the clouds in the Air Force, Brig. Gen. Richard L. Anderson said Roach was grounded in the achievements of his youth, which included his “place of honor in the annals of CAP history” as the first Spaatz recipient.

“I remember meeting Doug for the first time at a Spaatz Association event soon after the organization was created in the mid-1990s,” said Anderson, past president of the association and former CAP national commander who now chairs the organization’s Board of Governors. “Although Doug’s professional military and congressional staff career precluded his remaining active in CAP, he remained dedicated to the purposes of the CAP Cadet Program and attributed CAP with his later accomplishments in life.”

“He was a hero to me and many cadets in the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s,” said Trick. “Often, we would see him on the Hill during National CAP Legislative Day. He always had a great smile and handshake for the cadets.”

Roach earned a bachelor’s degree in government at the University of Michigan and, after his distinguished service in the Air Force, a master’s degree in national security studies from Georgetown University.

He continued his career of public service on Capitol Hill, most recently as the longtime staff director for the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces.

In his obituary this week, Congressional Quarterly’s Roll Call said Roach was a cornerstone of every defense authorization law since 1991, whether as a professional staff member on the veteran defense panel, or its staff director since 2001.

“His work was key to developing the smart weapons we use today,” said Trick. The longtime congressional aide also was noted for serving both Democrats and Republicans, working through important national security legislation. In the Roll Call obituary, Rep. Michael R. Turner, the Ohio Republican who chairs the Tactical Air and Land Forces panel, said, “Doug Roach was a trusted counselor to members on both sides of the aisle for many years. He always gave us his best advice, regardless of party interest or agenda.”

Roach’s boss, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif., called him “a selfless servant and true hero.”

About the author: Mike Hower

Profile photo of Mike Hower

3 comments to “Doug Roach, Spaatz #1, 1942 – 2013”

You can leave a reply or Trackback this post.
  1. Profile photo of Mike Hower

    Mike Hower - Jan 22, 2013

    Here is some more on Doug, courtesy of CQ Roll Call:

    Doug Roach, Veteran Defense Panel Staffer, Dies at 70

    By Frank Oliveri, CQ Roll Call

    Douglas C. Roach, the longtime staff director for the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces, died Jan. 10. He was 70.

    Roach was a cornerstone of every defense authorization law since 1991, whether as a professional staff member on the Tactical Air and Land Forces panel, or its staff director since 2001, under both Democrats and Republicans.

    He led a distinguished career of public service beginning in the Air Force, including 516 combat missions between 1969 and 1972.

    Roach died at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington from complications related to cancer, according to House Armed Services panel spokesman Claude Chafin.

    Determined, forthright and, at times, obstinate, Roach’s death came after a series of chemotherapy sessions when he developed pneumonia.

    “This weekend, America lost a selfless servant and true hero,” said House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif. “Doug Roach was more than a member of my staff; he was an institution.”

    Roach served leaders of both parties, often acknowledging the political challenges that members of each party faced as they worked through important national security legislation.

    “Doug Roach was a trusted counselor to members on both sides of the aisle for many years,” Rep. Michael R. Turner, the Ohio Republican who chairs Tactical Air and Land Forces panel, said in a written statement. “He always gave us his best advice, regardless of party interest or agenda.”

    Roach was both a strong ally and tough opponent in his interactions with the U.S. military, sensitive to the military’s needs and, often, skeptical of its demands.

    Doug Bush, a professional staffer on the House panel, noted that Roach’s vast experience informed staff in direct and indirect ways.

    In an email, Bush recalled a moment that reflected the kind of leader Roach was. Bush, who oversees land combat systems developed by the Army, joined the committee five years ago, when the Army was attempting to develop its ambitious – and doomed – Future Combat System, a complicated mix of networked combat vehicles and other equipment. The ill-defined and overly complex program was hobbled by an excessive overlapping of development, production and testing.

    “My first week on the HASC staff, Doug Roach and I were talking about Army programs, and FCS in particular,” Bush wrote. “I remember him saying, ‘I’ll let you form your own opinion on FCS, but from the start I’ve thought the whole thing was just kind of stupid.'”

    The program was ultimately canceled.

    Most of the time, Roach was a strong proponent of allowing the military to set its own course. But he became more personally involved in some programs.

    In particular, he was a strong proponent of the controversial alternative engine program for the multiservice F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program.

    Roach was a strong believer that building a second type of engine – pitting Pratt & Whitney, the core engine developer for the F-35, against General Electric – would play an important role in driving down the cost of the $100 billion engine program while also helping to improve the performance of both engines.

    But the Pentagon decided over time to cancel the alternative engine as a cost-cutting measure, a move resisted by many in Congress.

    One senior House defense panel aide recalled a meeting before a critical vote on the engine in 2010, when Ashton B. Carter, then the Pentagon’s acquisition chief, met with several dozen staffers and members in the Capitol.

    “After Carter made brief remarks, Doug Roach then took over the event by jumping up and interrupting Dr. Carter numerous times with very pointed questions like ‘Mr. Secretary, that last statement just isn’t accurate’ and ‘Mr. Secretary, there is just no factual basis for that statement,'” the aide said. “I remember admiring his bravery in going after a senior DOD official and so publicly to fight for something he thought was right. I also remember admiring his ability to keep his cool and stay professional as he did it.”

    For several years, Roach worked with lawmakers to resist the Pentagon’s effort to terminate the GE engine. He often sent lengthy emails, dubbed “Roach clips” by colleagues, to staffers and reporters that critiqued news stories on the engine competition.

    “Doug sent clips to staff every day, early,” one senior congressional aide wrote in an email. “Most of the time before 6 a.m.”

    In the end, however, Gates succeeded in terminating the second engine. Roach was disappointed in this decision. He argued that it was one way the F-35 program could have gained some control over its maintenance and sustainment costs over its planned 50-year life, which could cost an astounding $1.1 trillion.

    Roach could blister the air with foul language in the House Armed Services military hardware offices, known as “the pit,” at some real or perceived injustice, inaccuracy or inanity, but he also was known for his light touches.

    “He was the same sweetheart who secretly left Godiva chocolate Santas and Easter bunnies (and, this year, Thanksgiving turkeys too) on the desks of all the women who worked for HASC,” one senior aide noted. “They weren’t supposed to say ‘thank you’ because they weren’t supposed to know who left them, but they always made the women smile.”

    A highly decorated officer who retired with the rank of colonel in the Air Force, Roach was a skilled combat pilot and later served with the Air Force flight performance team, the Thunderbirds.

    Roach was born in Romulus, Mich., on 18 Nov 1942. He earned a bachelor of arts degree in government at the University of Michigan and a master’s degree in national security studies from Georgetown University. He is survived by his brother, Jarmin.

  2. Janice Johnson - Feb 08, 2013

    Jarmin,
    I know how proud of Doug you are and how much you loved him and he loved you. What an exciting, giving and wonderful life he lived. Roger and I were so impressed with him and wish we could have spent more time with Doug.
    Thank you for sharing his bio.

    Love,
    Janice

  3. Profile photo of Mike Hower

    Mike Hower - Mar 14, 2014

    Virtual memorial link: http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GSvcid=435109&GRid=104027579&

    (Courtesy of Mike Taylor, #103)

You must be logged in to post a comment.