It’s somewhat rare for a congressional staffer to gain praise from both Republicans and Democrats. Such was the case for Doug Roach, a committee veteran for more than two decades who died in January at the age of 70.
Roach worked every day of the week, colleagues said, and often arrived at the office at 5:30 a.m. One day he came to work very ill, and staff drove him to the hospital. He died there two days later from complications related to cancer.
The former Air Force colonel and pilot who served in Vietnam transcended party lines and worked for leaders on both sides of the aisle after joining the committee in 1991. Roach managed what even other busy staffers deemed an inordinately heavy portfolio.
A staff director for the Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee since 2001, Roach was especially passionate about overseeing the troubled F-35 second-engine program, which was terminated in 2011. He took pains to make sure reporters got the facts right. “He would take a reporter’s article, fill it with red ink, send it to them, and copy me,” minority communications director Michael Amato said.
Upon Roach’s death, Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio, called Roach a “trusted counselor” who gave “his best advice, regardless of party interest or agenda.” Staffers recalled his random acts of kindness, such as passing out chocolate bunnies for Easter.
Roach’s impressive Air Force career included more than 500 combat missions between 1969 and 1972, according to Roll Call, and he was the first recipient of the Civil Air Patrol’s highest cadet honor, the Spaatz Award, in 1964. He was also a pilot for the Thunderbirds, the Air Force’s performance flight team.
This article appears in the June 13, 2013, edition of NJ Daily.