Robert E. Kelley

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Robert E. Kelley
Robert E Kelley.jpg
Lieutenant General Robert E. Kelley in 1983
Born (1933-11-03) November 3, 1933 (age 85)
Albany, New York, U.S.[1]
AllegianceUnited States of America
Service/branchUnited States Air Force
Years of service1956–1986
RankLieutenant general
Commands held
Superintendent of the United States Air Force Academy
Battles/warsVietnam War
Other work
  • Director, The Canon Institute
  • President, Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge

Robert E. Kelley (born November 3, 1933) is a former United States Air Force general and former Superintendent of the United States Air Force Academy. He retired from the Air Force on September 1, 1986.

Early life and education[edit]

Kelley was born in 1933 in Albany, New York and was raised in New Canaan, Connecticut. He attended Peekskill Military Academy and then Rutgers University. He was awarded a Bachelor of Science degree in June 1956 and was commissioned in the U.S. Air Force as a distinguished military graduate of the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps program. He earned his master's degree in international affairs from George Washington University in Washington, D.C. He is also a graduate of the National War College at Fort Lesley J. McNair, also in Washington, D.C.

Military career[edit]

Kelley entered primary flying training at Bainbridge Air Base, Georgia in August 1956 and completed basic flying training at Greenville Air Force Base, Mississippi, earning his wings in September 1957. Combat crew training in F-86Fs (with "Top Gun" award) and F-100s followed at Williams Air Force Base, Arizona and Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.

His first operational assignment was as an F-100 pilot with the 461st Fighter-Day Squadron of the 36th Tactical Fighter Wing at Hahn Air Base, Germany. In May 1959, he joined the 53rd Tactical Fighter Squadron at Ramstein Air Base, also in Germany, serving as a Special Weapons Officer and becoming a Select Crew member.

Returning to the United States in 1961, Kelley was checked-out in F-104 Starfighters with the 435th Tactical Fighter Squadron of the 479th Tactical Fighter Wing at George Air Force Base, California. He was redeployed to Germany in the fall of 1961 as part of the United States response to the Berlin crisis. In January 1962, he was selected to help form the 4443rd Combat Crew Training Squadron at George Air Force Base. This unit trained Allied instructor pilots in F-104Gs as part of the Military Assistance Program.

From 1964 to 1967, Kelley served in the Department of Athletics at the U.S. Air Force Academy, Colorado as the Director's administrative assistant and coached varsity lacrosse (1st Varsity Coach) and skiing. During this tour of duty, he qualified as an airborne parachutist (with Leadership Award) at Fort Benning, Georgia.

Following three years at the academy, Kelley completed F-4 combat crew training (with "Top Gun" award) at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona. He remained at Davis-Monthan as an F-4 instructor pilot and served as Executive Officer of the 4453rd Combat Crew Training Wing until December 1968, when he joined the 366th Tactical Fighter Wing at Da Nang Air Base in the Republic of Vietnam. En route to Southeast Asia, he completed the U.S. Air Force Fighter Weapons Instructor Course (with Flying Award) at Nellis Air Force Base. While at Da Nang, Kelley completed 119 combat missions in F-4Es before being assigned, in November 1969, as Executive Officer of the Tactical Air Control Center Headquarters, Seventh Air Force, at Tan Son Nhut Air Base in the Republic of Vietnam.

Kelley speaking at a football game in 1981.

On his return from Southeast Asia in June 1970, Kelley became an Operations staff officer in the tactics branch of fighter operations at Tactical Air Command's headquarters in Langley, Virginia. His responsibilities included the Air-to-Air Weapons Evaluation program, Air Combat Maneuvering Instrumentation, Continental Operations Range and MCM 3-1 issues. From August 1972 to July 1973, he attended the National War College.

In 1973, Kelley was assigned to the Air Force headquarters in Washington, D.C., where he served as Chief of the Fighter Forces Branch in the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Plans and Operations. He was a member of the Tactical Fighter Force Modernization Study Group convened by the Chief of Staff and charged with developing a modernization strategy for the 1980s. He became Assistant for General Officer Matters at the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, Personnel, in June 1974.

Kelley served as Vice Commander of the U.S. Air Force Tactical Air Warfare Center, Eglin Air Force Base, Florida from July 1977 to July 1978; then as Vice Commander of the West Coast Delta Force; and then as Commander of Tactical Training, Davis-Monthan at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. In March 1979, he took command of the U.S. Air Force Tactical Fighter Weapons Center at Nellis Air Force Base and also served as chairman of the executive committee Multinational Test and Evaluation of the F-16 Fighting Falcon. He was appointed the ninth Superintendent of the U.S. Air Force Academy, Colorado, in June 1981. His final assignment was as Vice Commander, Tactical Air Command, back at its headquarters in Langley.

He was promoted to Lieutenant General on July 1, 1983 and retired on October 1, 1986.

Flight hours, awards, and decorations[edit]

He was a command pilot with more than 4,000 flying hours. Fighter aircraft he has flown include F-86s, F-100s, F-104s, F-4s, A-7s, A-10s, F-5s, F-l5s, F-16s and F-111s.

His military decorations and awards include the Air Force Distinguished Service Medal with oak-leaf cluster, Legion of Merit with oak-leaf cluster, Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star, Air Medal with eight oak-leaf clusters, Air Force Commendation Medal, Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces Honor Medal 1st Class and Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm.

Post-military life[edit]

General Kelley served as a Director of The Canon Institute in Princeton, New Jersey, and President of the Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge.[2] Kelley has also founded a defense consulting firm, a sports marketing company, and Wright Stuff Press. General Kelley also served as Senior Military Advisor to the Air Force's "Gulf War Air Power Survey."[3] He served on the Board of the Lacrosse Foundation & Hall of Fame,the Board of Veterans Advantage, the Board of Directors of the Air Force Academy Foundation, and the American-European Community Association, .[3] He is a member of the Order of Daedalians, a life member of US Lacrosse and US Squash and a member of The Merion Cricket Club. In 1984, Kelley was inducted into the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame.[4] He was inducted into the Rutgers Athletic Hall of Fame in 1994 and into the Rutgers Hall of Distinguished Alumni in 1999.He won the National Squash Championship for his age group in 1999; the Hyder Trophy in 2000 and the Eastern States Veterans Championship in 2001. He received a Honorary PhD from the University of Nevada [in..?].


  1. ^ "Public Background Checks - Get Public information about friends, family, and other matters".
  2. ^ "The Canon Group Members".
  3. ^ a b "Veterans Advantage Board of Advisors".
  4. ^ "National Lacrosse Hall of Fame 1984 inductees".

 This article incorporates public domain material from the United States Government document "[1]".

Preceded by
Kenneth L. Tallman
Superintendent of the United States Air Force Academy
1981 – 1983
Succeeded by
Winfield W. Scott Jr.