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Captain Aaron R. Kelley a native of Orange Park, FL graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1996 with a Bachelor of Science in Political Science. Upon completion of flight training in Pensacola, FL and designation as a Naval Aviator in November 1998, he reported to Helicopter Combat Support Squadron THREE (HC-3) as a fleet replacement pilot in the H-46 Sea Knight.
His first fleet assignment was in San Diego, CA, with the “Gunbearers” of HC-11 where he held various billets including Quality Assurance Officer, Detachment AOIC, and Asst. Maintenance Officer. During assignment at sea in USS Kearsarge (LHD 3), he served as the Aviation and Afloat Safety Officer where Kearsarge was awarded the Admiral Flately Memorial Award for Aviation Safety, the CNO Afloat Safety Award, and the Secretary of Navy Safety Excellence Award. As a department head, he joined the “Red Lions” of Helicopter Antisubmarine Squadron FIFTEEN (HS-15), transitioned to his third helicopter flying the HH-60H and SH-60F and served as Aviation Safety Officer, Maintenance Officer, and Officer in Charge HS-15. In July 2012 he reported to the “Nightdippers” of HS-5 as Executive Officer and assumed command of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron FIVE (HSC-5) in December 2013. Captain Kelley reported to USS Essex (LHD 2) in October 2018 as Executive Officer and assumed command of Essex in September 2019. In June 2022, Captain Kelley assumed Command of Amphibious Squadron SIX and Command of the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group, consisting of USS Kearsarge (LHD 3), USS Arlington (LPD 24) and USS Gunston Hall (LSD 44) with the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit embarked.
Ashore, while assigned as an MH-60S flight instructor to the “Pack Rats” of HC-3, he served as the Aviation Safety Officer and Curriculum Officer during their transition to HSC-3 and fleet introduction of the MH-60S. Following his department head tour, he earned a Master of Arts Degree in National Security and Strategic Studies at the U.S. Naval War College and was subsequently assigned to the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations (OPNAV), Strategy and Policy Division (N51). As a staff officer he served as the Deputy Branch Head and Branch Head, N512 managing portfolios including Global Posture, Strategic Laydown, BMD Ashore and Navy lead for Personnel Recovery. Following command of HSC-5, he reported to NATO Headquarters, Supreme Allied Command Transformation, for joint duty assigned to the Strategic Plans and Policy Directorate. Following command of Essex, he served on the staff of Commander, Naval Air Force, Atlantic as ACOS, Director Force Safety. Captain Kelley has amassed more than 2,900 flight hours in the H-46, H-60F/H, and MH-60S.
His decorations include the Legion of Merit, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal (3 awards), Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal (3 awards), Combat Action Ribbon and various other service and unit awards.