Robert Wayne Watkins – Colonel, United States Marine Corps

Robert W. Watkins, 61, a retired Marine Corps Colonel who was a command pilot for President Ronald Reagan, died April 21, 2007,  of leukemia at his home in California, Maryland.

In the 1980s, while stationed at Marine Helicopter Squadron One at Quantico, he served as staff officer, operations officer and presidential command pilot for President Jimmy Carter for several weeks and then during Reagan's first term.

He traveled to Brazil, Tokyo, Canada and Cancun with the president. His helicopter would be transported in a larger helicopter to the various destinations.

Colonel Watkins flew one of the only helicopters to land inside the palace grounds in Tokyo, his wife recalled. Such a landing had not been done before, but for security reasons, Reagan was allowed to land his helicopter there.

Colonel Watkins, a native of St. Louis, served 30 years in the Marines. He enlisted in 1966 and was selected to attend Officer Candidate School, where he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in 1967.

During assignments of increasing responsibility and rank, he was stationed in Vietnam; as a flight instructor in Pensacola, Florida; in Japan; and in North Carolina. After making major in 1976 and being assigned to Marine Aircraft Group 26, he coordinated the design and development of the CH-46E flight simulator training device, which is used throughout the Marine Corps.

Colonel Watkins received a bachelor's degree in aeronautical science from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Fla., and attended Air Command and Staff College in Montgomery, Alabama.

After his assignment with Reagan, he served as a commanding officer with the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing in Okinawa and later at North Island Naval Air Station in San Diego. He was promoted to Colonel in 1989.

In 1990, he was the commanding officer of Marine Aircraft Group 16 (Rear) during operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield. He became executive officer of MAG-16 in 1991. From 1991 until his retirement in 1996, he served at Marine Corps headquarters and in his final assignment supported the Base Realignment and Closure Commission.

After his military service, Colonel Watkins was employed with Bell Helicopter Textron, where he was primarily involved in the V-22 Osprey program at Patuxent Naval Air Station River in Southern Maryland. He retired from Bell Helicopter in 2005.

His decorations include the Silver Star, Meritorious Service Medal, Air Medal and Navy Unit Commendation.

Survivors include his wife of 39 years, Jane L. Watkins of California; two children, Lisa Watkins of Oakton and Michael Watkins of Pasadena, California; two sisters; and three brothers.


  • DATE OF BIRTH: 11/14/1945
  • DATE OF DEATH: 04/21/2007

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