Class Of 1964 USAF Academy

Douglas A. Rotman

11301 W. Hickory Hill Court

Boise , ID 83713


A Rather Mundane History

As I am sure it is for most of us, I cannot quite fathom that 50 years have gone by since the “cap throwing” at the USAF Academy in June of 1964. Looking back is hard and somewhat painful, but the time past was also joyous and blessed.

After separating from the Air Force in 1971 I pretty well lost contact with my squadron mates and flying buddies from the blue. The same happened with my classmates from the Harvard Business School. The same happened as we moved to new jobs and locations. I guess it was just in my nature to not look too far back. It has occurred to me that some of that came from the combat tour in South East Asia.

Through the years I and we as a family have been challenged, blessed, and challenged again. Sometimes the events have been difficult, but I believe that the Lord guided us, many times in ways we did not understand or even know. Incidentally, as I write this I will often slip into the plural “we.” Nancy and I have traveled the way together for more than 43 years. It is in good part through her patience and perseverance that we have gotten here.

Here in Boise, Idaho, where we thank God daily for giving us this place on the planet to live. We have a daughter, Julie, and a son-in-law, Matt, who live within 20 miles. Matt is a Manager of a Honda power products dealership. They have graced us with four super grandkids – aren’t they all. (I could write a chapter about each one. I am sure many of you could do the same about yours.) Our son, John, is married to Christy. John is in a marketing position of a health supplement product company that markets to health professionals in northern California. They live in Berkley, CA. Our son, David, lives in New Orleans, LA. He is working as a visual graphics in a very innovative advertising firm. (For those of you in the Southern US, and drink Abita beer - he has been a key designer in the brand appearance.) He and his significant other, Tori, are establishing NOLA as the place where they will stay – a long way from Idaho.

We still own a small corporation with two retail stores. We worship in a nearby church of a conservative federation. I have served as deacon or elder many of the 25 years we have lived in Boise. Nancy has been active in Sunday School, and Woman’s Bible Studies.

With that as a foundation of where we are, here is my (our) story of how we got here, and I’m sticking to it, mostly.

After graduation, I drove to Williams AFB, AZ for pilot training, scared as ___ about learning to fly. As you remember, we had no experience in flying at the zoo, so I did not know if I could ever do it. To step back a bit further, I came to the academy from a farm in Kansas, having been in a total of four states, about as green as one could be. (When I left the Air Force I had been in nearly all the states, and had flown in four continents.)

I did struggle a bit, but I did learn to fly, and actually got to be a rather decent pilot. At that time, most of the higher level assignments were to the newish F-4, back seat. I selected Europe and wound up at a small base, RAF Woodbridge. After being there for six months or so, the Squadron Exec said that there was a war going on somewhere in Southeast Asia. “Does anyone want to volunteer?” I raised my hand and before I could get it back in my pocket I was on the way to DaNang AB, RVN, still a GIB in the F-4C.

A sidelight, my second flight out of DaNang was a ground support mission about 50 miles away. After the first pass, the wingman notified that we were streaming smoke and had best head for the base. We shut down one engine and went back for an approach end engagement. (I never did understand the logic of making a “sudden stop” landing with a nearly full load of fuel and rockets, but…) After a full inspection, the crew chief found a hole about the size of a little finger. A random rifle bullet had cut an oil line. Welcome to combat, buddy. This is just the start.

Anyway, in the next eight months, I was part of 149 missions, 100 over North Vietnam – Counters. Our missions included day missions for ground support in the South, night missions throughout the war zone, and day missions to the deep North. We had MIG encounters, SAM dodging, flack evading, and plenty of pucker time. I don’t think my tour was any different than anyone else, but I did come home. About 20% of those airmen that went over on my set of orders did not come home, or came home much later having been POWs. I came back with 2 DFC’s and 11 Air Medals for just doing the job.

The next assignment was as a T-38 instructor, back at Williams AFB. I guess I got to be a fairly decent instructor as several of my students were at or near the top of the class. However, my proudest accomplishment was taking a young fellow who barely made it out of T-37’s and getting him to be an accomplished T-38 pilot. He just became confident that he “Could Fly.” I was assigned to Check Section. (There occurred an event that changed my career. I received a mediocre rating from the section commander. Given the inflated ratings at that time, I figured that my upward potential was limited.)

I decided to separate from the Air Force and go to business school. I was accepted at the Harvard Business School and some other schools. I found out later that the Air Force was sending officers to HBS and then returning them to duty. If I had only known….

One of the things that would have helped me immensely in a career would have been a mentor to guide me. I just did not have the wisdom to search one out. Remember, I was a country boy from Kansas with no military association.

The really important thing that did happen during my tour in Arizona, was meeting an Arizona State University coed, Nancy, at the laundry room and then soon after at the dumpster in the apartment complex in which we were both living. (My daughter would say it was a “God thing.” I think she is right.)

We were engaged at the New Year’s Eve party under the mistletoe at the Williams AFB Officers Club, and married in April in Scottsdale, AZ. We soon headed off to Boston for the rest of the story.

The two years at the Harvard Business School were stressful, difficult, engaging and gratifying. Above all it was a time of growth. Remember I had gone to a military school and the approach to education was radically different at HBS. It was, in short a great experience educationally, but more importantly it brought a young married couple together, establishing a life together. We had many close friends there. Maybe it was rather like a combat assignment.

Leaving HBS, we had several opportunities for employment, and we chose to come to the Midwest, Chicago. I worked as an internal consultant for FMC Corporation. I had a concentration in Agribusiness at HBS. That and my farming background lead the company to projects in Agribusiness operations around the US and the world. Nancy and I went to France on a three week project and I had a short project in Italy.

All of a sudden, an opportunity came with an agricultural company headquartered in Kansas. This involved managing a small manufacturing operation in Claremore, OK. While there, another of the “best” things of my life happened, the birth of our daughter, Julie Margit. Though I incorporated many improvements, the job was somewhat beyond my experience level. I was asked to move to a different position, but I was a little headstrong so I went back to FMC in the Construction Equipment Group in Cedar Rapids, IA, as a product manager for Link Belt Hydraulic Cranes. That job involved another move, this time to Lexington, KY, to be near the new manufacturing plant for the newly designed cranes.

We found that the life style in Kentucky did not match our style so I went back to a small agricultural operation, Kewanee Machinery, in Illinois, as a Vice President of Marketing. The product line proved to be dying and these were the Carter years, not a good time for agriculture. We moved again, this time to another agribusiness in Fargo, ND. Before we moved, we were blessed again, this time with a baby boy, John Andrew, from Korea. We had been told that we would not have another child, physically, so an equally good thing happened – adoption.

In Fargo, I became a Marketing Services Manager for a Four Wheel Tractor line and a newly acquired tillage line. After a few years, the company was purchased by a major farm equipment company. I moved on for a short time with another tillage company but we soon left the Midwest for the Northwest, Portland, OR.

Oh, yes, while we were in Fargo we were surprised and blessed with a baby boy, David Allen. He was a miracle, the baby we could not have.

In Portland, I took over the operations of a small tractor importing company, Kioti Tractor. These were imported from Korea. The operation was owned by a company from Boise, ID. We set up a nationwide distribution organization and began to grow. The company was sold to a Dutch equipment importing company, and we moved again, this time to Boise, ID, the headquarters of the company that owned Kioti Tractor. We are quite sure this is our last move – to one of the best places on earth to live.

Here I became the General Manager of a truck rental operation. We rented trucks to, yes, agricultural operations in the Pacific Northwest and to the Navaho Nation in New Mexico. These were used by large Agribusiness companies for short periods during harvesting – peas, potatoes, sugar beets, sweet corn. We rented the trucks for one or two seasons then sold them, keeping the fleet fresh. The owning company was essentially blown apart by deep divisions in the owning family.

Nancy and I decided that we would then start and own our own company. Guess what, it is not in agribusiness. We now create and solve our own problems. We are Rotman Family, Inc. We operate two packing, mailing, and shipping retail stores, one in Boise, and one in Meridian, ID. We operate as PostalAnnex. That is a franchise out of San Diego. Our plans to grow to five stores were cut short by the Great Recession, but we have survived. We have essentially twelve product lines. The main one is shipping –FedEx, UPS, DHL, and USPS. We also have a strong copy business. The operations are labor and people intense, in the main, enjoyable. We are working toward selling the operations so we can finally retire!

As said earlier, we have lived here in Boise for nearly 25 years, and we love it. We have raised our family of three here. The neighborhood was new when we moved in. Now trees are over 75 feet tall and families that had young children in the backyard then now have grandkids there now. Oh, I realized that I have not said much about my helpmate, Nancy. She stayed home raising kids when it was critical. She later taught preschool and also in the public school special education program. Now she is the most important person in our 50/50 ownership of our business, working many hours each week. As Julie says, “It is a God Thing” that we have been tried, guided, and blessed through these fifty years.

That is our story. May you all be blessed.


Doug and Nancy in front of another penitentiary

The former Idaho State Penitentiary

Not quite as good as shape as the one near Colorado Springs (USAFA)!


Doug and four of the neatest grandkids around

I have plans for at least one to go to the Academy!

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