Captain Robert J. Kelsey was born in 1945 at Lawton, Oklahoma. In June 1967 he received a commission in the U. S. Navy through the Navy ROTC Regular Program at the University of Oklahoma; he was selected to Phi Beta Kappa and graduated with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Mathematics and Physics.
After flight training in the A-F4 aircraft in June 1969, he reported to VA-23 (Fixed Wing Attack) deployed on the USS Oriskany, CVA-34 in Southeast Asia participating in air operations over North and South Vietnam. When VA-23 was decommissioned in 1970 he transitioned to the A-7E aircraft and reported to VA-146 on the USS Constellation CVA-64 assigned to Air Test and Evaluation Squadron Five (VX-5) at Naval Weapons Center, China Lake, California.
During his tour with VA-105 the Squadron deployed twice to the Mediterranean Sea and for service there was awarded the Commander Naval Air Atlantic Battle “E” and the Rear Admiral C. Wade McClusky Award as the best Attack Squadron in the U. S. Navy. In October 1984 he assumed command from Commander, Light Attack Wing One (LATWING ONE) and was the top pilot in LATWING ONE. His medals awarded include the Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross, three Meritorious Service Medals, 20 Air Medals with “Vs” and seven Navy Commendation Medals with “Vs”. He retired 4 June 1992 and died 24 June 1992.
Captain Kelsey was induction into the Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame in 2013. That same year, a University of Oklahoma Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC) Midshipman received the first Capt. Robert J. Kelsey Leadership Award during a ceremony at the university’s ROTC center, April 16. The award, presented to Midshipman 2nd Class Alan Tompkins, included a $1,000 scholarship.
“It means a lot. I know there are plenty of other midshipmen who are more than qualified for the award, so to be chosen as the first recipient is very humbling and rewarding,” said Tompkins. “I am honored to be recognized by the Kelsey family and very thankful for the opportunity they have provided. I hope to continue to be a good example in the battalion and the community.”
The scholarship endowment was established by the family and will be administered by the Oklahoma City Community Foundation.
“We are extremely pleased about this opportunity to honor Bob’s memory while helping current and future Navy ROTC students,” said Kelsey’s father, Charles Kelsey. “He was very dedicated to God, his family, his country, and the U.S. Navy. He was a tremendous role model for his children, his seven younger siblings and, I’m sure, hundreds of fellow military members.”
“Capt. Kelsey left a great legacy at this university, both as a midshipmen and during his very distinctive service,” said Capt. Rod Clark, commanding officer of the OU NROTC unit at the time. “It is a wonderful thing that his family has created a scholarship to continue that legacy”
The purpose of the University of Oklahoma NROTC Program is to educate and train qualified young men and women for service as commissioned officers in the Navy’s unrestricted line, the Navy Nurse Corps and the Marine Corps. As the largest single source of Navy and Marine Corps officers, the NROTC Scholarship Program plays an important role in preparing mature young men and women for leadership and management positions in an increasingly technical Navy and Marine Corps.