Rear Adm. Kenneth Whitesell is a native of Stuarts Draft, Virginia, and graduated from Old Dominion University in 1983 with a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering. He received his commission from Aviation Officer Candidate School in February 1985 and earned his naval aviation wings in October 1986. He is a graduate of the Joint Forces Staff College and the Naval War College with a master of arts degree in national security and strategic studies.
Whitesell’s operational assignments were Fighter Squadron (VF) 142, USS Eisenhower (CVN 69); Top Gun training officer and assistant operations officer in VF-74, USS Saratoga (CV 60); and VF-32, USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). He transitioned from the F-14 Tomcat into the F/A-18F Super Hornet and commanded Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 41, USS Nimitz (CVN 68). His major command tour was served as commander, Carrier Air Wing 1, USS Enterprise (CVN 65). Most recently, he served as commander, Carrier Strike Group 2 aboard USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77).
Whitesell’s shore assignments were tactics phase leader at VF-101, the F-14 Fleet Replacement Squadron (FRS) and assistant readiness officer at commander, Fighter Wing Atlantic. His joint tour was served as the strategic action officer, National Military Command Center, Joint Chiefs of Staff, Washington, D.C.; executive officer, Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 122 during the fleet introduction and training in the Super Hornet; and as the tactical air (TACAIR) commander detailer and head assignments officer, Navy Personnel Command. He completed his overseas tours as Combined Air and Space Operations Center battle director, Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar; and chief of staff and director, Maritime Operations Center, Commander, U.S. Navy Central Command/Commander, U.S. 5th Fleet. He also served as the director, Aviation Officer Distribution Division, PERS-43, Navy Personnel Command. As a flag officer, he served as the assistant commander, Navy Personnel Command for Career Management (PERS-4).
Whitesell has participated in operations Desert Shield, Southern Watch, Deliberate Guard/Allied Force, Iraqi Freedom and Inherent Resolve. He has accumulated over 4,000 flight hours and 1,005 carrier arrested landings. His personal decorations include the Legion of Merit (five awards), Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal (two awards), Air Medal, and various campaign, unit and individual awards.