Retired Sep. 1, 1986.
Lieutenant General Robert E. Kelley is vice commander, Tactical Air Command, with headquarters at Langley Air Force Base, Va. The command directs the activities of three numbered air forces, three centers and 10 air divisions. More than 112,000 military and civilian personnel are assigned to 18 major Tactical Air Command installations and other units in the United States, Panama, Okinawa and Iceland. Tactical Air Command is the gaining organization for 71,000 Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve personnel in 186 major units throughout the United States.
General Kelley was born in 1933, in Albany, N.Y. and was raised in New Canaan, Conn. He attended Peekskill Military Academy before entering Rutgers University. In June 1956 he received a bachelor of science degree and was commissioned in the U.S. Air Force as a distinguished military graduate of the Rutgers University Reserve Officer Training Corps program. General Kelley earned his master's degree in international affairs from The George Washington University, Washington, D.C. He is a graduate of the National War College at Fort Lesley J. McNair, also in Washington, D.C.
He entered primary flying training at Bainbridge Air Base, Ga., in August 1956 and completed basic flying training at Greenville Air Force Base, Miss., earning his wings in September 1957. Combat crew training in F-86F's and F-100s followed at Williams Air Force Base, Ariz., and Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.
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, Germany, and served as special weapons officer.
Returning to the United States in 1961, General Kelley was checked out in F-104s with the 435th Tactical Fighter Squadron of the 479th Tactical Fighter Wing at George Air Force Base, Calif. He deployed 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-104G's as part of the Military Assistance Program.
From 1964 to 1967, General Kelley served in the department of athletics at the U.S. Air Force Academy, Colo., as the administrative assistant to the director and couched varsity lacrosse and skiing. During this tour of duty, he qualified as an airborne parachutist at Fort Benning, Ga.
Following three years at the academy, General Kelley completed F-4 combat crew training at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. 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, Republic of Vietnam. En route to Southeast Asia, he completed the U.S. Air Force Fighter Weapons Instructor Course at Nellis Air Force Base. While at Da Nang, General Kelley completed 119 combat missions in F-4E's before being assigned, in November 1969, as executive officer of the Tactical Air Control Center, Headquarters 7th Air Force, Tan Son Nhut Air Base, Republic of Vietnam.
When he returned from Southeast Asia in June 1970, General Kelley became an operations staff officer in the tactics branch of fighter operations, Headquarters Tactical Air Command, Langley Air Force Base. 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.
Assigned to Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Washington, D.C., in 1973, 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. The general became assistant for general officer matters, Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, Personnel, at Air Force headquarters in June 1974.
General Kelley served as vice commander, U.S. Air Force Tactical Air Warfare Center, Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., from July 1977 to July 1978, and then as commander of Tactical Training Davis-Monthan, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. In March 1979 General Kelley 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. He was appointed the ninth superintendent of the U.S. Air Force Academy, Colo., in June 1981. He assumed his present duties in July 1983.
The general is 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 Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star Medal, 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.
He was promoted to lieutenant general July 1, 1983, with same date of rank.