Executive Officer, Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 1
Major Donald Kelly

Major Kelly graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 2007 with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Naval Architecture. Upon graduation, he was commissioned a Second Lieutenant and completed The Basic School in January 2008. He was then assigned to MATSG-21 to begin Naval Flight Training. First Lieutenant Kelly winged on 9 August 2009 and received orders to HMLAT-303 in Camp Pendleton, California, as an AH-1W Cobra pilot. 

In March 2010, he was assigned to the HMLA-269 Gunrunners in New River, North Carolina where he served as the Assistant NATOPS, Assistant Standardization, and Operations Flight Officer, deployed to Afghanistan with an AH-1W detachment in support of OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM (OEF) 11.1-11.2, and was promoted to Captain.

Following his deployment with the Gunrunners, Captain Kelly was assigned to Marine Special Operations Company (MSOC) H, 2d Marine Special Operations Battalion in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina where he served as a Battalion Air Officer, Company Air Officer, and Marine Special Operations Support Group Fires Platoon Commander. During his time at MARSOC he attended the U.S. Army Airborne School, SERE School, and deployed again to Afghanistan in support of OEF with MSOC H as a Forward Air Controller. 

Upon his return in September 2014, Captain Kelly transitioned to the VMU community and received orders to the VMU-3 Phantoms in Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii. While assigned to VMU-3 he flew the RQ-7B and RQ-7Bv2 Shadow while serving as the Aviation Safety Officer, Future Operations Officer, Pilot Training Officer, Assistant Operations Officer, VMU Community Crew Resource Management Model Manager, squadron Weapons and Tactics Instructor (WTI), squadron NATOPS Instructor, and Detachment OIC. He was promoted to Major and received orders to Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron One (MAWTS-1) in July 2017.

Major Kelly was assigned to the Air Officer Department and Aviation Development, Tactics and Evaluation Department at MAWTS-1 where he served as an Air Officer instructor for three years and the USMC Digitally-Aided Close Air Support (DACAS) subject matter expert. Concurrently, he transitioned to the RQ-21A Blackjack and served as an RQ-21A instructor and the MAWTS-1 UAS Division Head. 

In May 2020, Major Kelly reported to the VMU-1 Watchdogs where he completed MQ-9A pilot training and assumed the duties as the Executive Officer.

Major Kelly’s personal awards include the Bronze Star with Combat Distinguishing Device, Air Medal - Individual Action Numeral 1, Air Medal - Strike/Flight Numeral 7, Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal (2), Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, and Combat Action Ribbon.


3rd Marine Aircraft Wing