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First Name: Claude

Last Name: Kehler

Birthplace: Danville, PA, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Air Force (1947 - present)

Middle Name: Robert

Date of Birth: 07 April 1952

Rank: General

Years Served: 1975 - present
Claude Robert Kehler


Claude Robert Kehler

General, U.S. Air Force

Claude Robert Kehler was born on 7 April 1952 in Danville, PA. He spent his formative years in Pennsylvania, graduating from Shamokin Area High School, and early on, decided he wanted to be a Penn State Nittany Lion. He was accepted at Pennsylvania State University, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Education in 1974.

Kehler began his U.S. Air Force training while in college with the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps detachment at Penn State. While Kehler was in college, the Vietnam War caused controversy on campus and his AFROTC unit was omitted from the Penn State Yearbook for the years 1971-1973. However, his unit continued to excel, winning the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award for the academic years 1971-2 and 1974-5. Kehler was a distinguished ROTC graduate and officially entered into active duty service in April 1975.

Shortly after, he attended Missile Combat Crew Operational Readiness Training at Vandenberg AFB in CA. Once again, Kehler was a distinguished graduate. He moved on to serve as a Missile Combat Crew Member, Instructor and an Emergency War Order Instructor at the 341st Strategic Missile Wing at Malmstrom AFB, MT. As a strategic missile wing in the height of the Cold War, Malmstrom's missile field was the largest in the U.S. covering 23,500 square miles and maintaining 200 Minuteman II intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) in four missile squadrons. Crew shifts rotated to ensure individual silos missile had coverage 24 hours a day.

While at the 341st Wing, Captain Kehler completed Squadron Officer School, and, as was his tradition, was one of a few named distinguished graduates. He completed his tour with the 341st in January 1981 and was selected for an Air Staff Training Program internship. He then served as a Personnel Staff Officer at the Headquarters of the U.S. Air Force in Washington, DC. His first son, Matt, was born in February 1982 and shortly after his birth, he was assigned as a Missile Operations Staff Officer at Strategic Air Command at Offutt AFB, NE.

From the plains of Nebraska, Captain Kehler, soon to be promoted to Major, moved his family to Washington in January 1985. In Washington, he served in the Air Force Office of Legislative Liaison as the Chief of the Strategic Missile Branch. There he was the point man on Capitol Hill for matters regarding the President Ronald Reagan's ICBM Modernization Program. While in this assignment, Major Kehler's wife had their second son, Jared, in 1986. Major Kehler also completed a Master of Science degree in Public Administration through the University of Oklahoma at Norman, OK, in 1987.

Following his tour working on Capitol Hill, Major Kehler attended and graduated from the Armed Forces Staff College in Norfolk, VA, from January to June 1988.

Kehler's next assignment was in the Nuclear and Chemical Division of the Joint Staff in Washington, serving as a nuclear employment and policy planner. There he helped formulate revolutionary changes to nuclear war plan structure and targeting. He was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in 1989.

In July 1991, Lieutenant Colonel Kehler took Command of the 508th Missile Squadron at Whiteman AFB in Missouri. As Commander, he was in charge of maintaining and manning 50 Minuteman II ICBMs, keeping them always at the ready. After a year in command, he moved up to be Deputy Commander of the 351st Operations Group also at Whiteman AFB, expanding his responsibilities to three missile squadrons. While in this position, he also completed Air War College curriculum through correspondence.

Ready to take command of an operations group, Lt. Col. Kehler moved back to Malmstrom AFB, MT, to assume command of the 341st Operations Group, where he had served his first operational tour. During this tour, he was promoted to Colonel. In August 1994, Kehler attended the Naval War College in Newport, RI, graduating with a Master of Arts degree in National Security and Strategic Studies in July 1995. A paper he wrote while at the Naval War College titled, "Nuclear Armed Adversaries and the Joint Commander," was later published in the Naval War College Review.

Following War College, Kehler moved into a number of leadership positions in the Air Force space arena. He and his family moved to Colorado Springs, CO, where he served as both Inspector General and Deputy Director of Operations at the Headquarters of Air Force Space Command. The Headquarters is responsible for all aspects of U.S. Air Force space issues. In June 1996, he moved on to take command of the 30th Space Wing at Vandenberg AFB in CA. The 30th Space Wing launches vehicles into earth orbit using, among others, the Titan II, Titan IV and Delta II rockets. The launch range is also used to test new rockets.

In June 1998, the Kehler family returned to Washington, as Kehler became Chief of the Space Superiority Division and Chairman of the Space Superiority and Nuclear Deterrence Panel in the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Plans and Programs at U.S. Air Force Headquarters in the Pentagon. As chair of the panel, Kehler managed the $45 billion Air Force space program through the corporate resource allocation process. He also made a brief stop back in his home state of Pennsylvania to attend the Program for Executives sponsored by Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh. Then from September 1999 to August 2000, Kehler served as the Special Assistant to the Director of Programs in the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Plans and Programs.

On 1 July 2000, the Air Force promoted Kehler to Brigadier General and assigned him as Commander of the 21st Space Wing at Peterson AFB, CO, which supports space surveillance and control.

From his command tour, he returned to Washington as Director of National Security Space Integration in the Office of the Undersecretary of the Air Force. As Director, he integrated the activities of a number of space organizations on behalf of the Under Secretary of the Air Force and the Director of the National Reconnaissance Office. He also received the second star of a Major General on 1 August 2003.

In May 2005, he returned to Nebraska to assume the duties of Deputy Commander for the U.S. Strategic Command. He was promoted to Lieutenant General on 1 June 2005. In his role as Deputy Commander, he assisted the Commander of USSTRATCOM in managing the missions of global strike, missile defense, space operations, intelligence coordination, network warfare and combating weapons of mass destruction.

On 12 October 2007, he was promoted to the four-star rank of General and assumed Command of Air Force Space Command. He replaced outgoing General Kevin P. Chilton, who became commander of U.S. Strategic Command.

On 28 January 2011, General Kehler began his latest assignment as Commander, U.S. Strategic Command.

Promotion Dates

Second Lieutenant - 10 April 1975
First Lieutenant - 10 April 1977
Captain - 10 April 1979
Major - 1 May 1985
Lieutenant Colonel - 1 June 1989
Colonel - 1 February 1994
Brigadier General - 1 July 2000
Major General - 1 August 2003
Lieutenant General - 1 June 2005
General - 12 October 2007

Medals and Awards

Distinguished Service Medal with oak leaf cluster
Defense Superior Service Medal
Legion of Merit with two oak leaf clusters
Defense Meritorious Service Medal
Meritorious Service Medal with three oak leaf clusters
Air Force Commendation Medal


"Nuclear Armed Adversaries and the Joint Commander," Naval War College Review, Winter 1996

Honoree ID: 757   Created by: MHOH




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