Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 3
Lieutenant Colonel Donald P. Kelly

Lieutenant Colonel Kelly is from Cape Carteret, North Carolina, and 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 designated a Naval Aviator in 2009 and completed AH-1W training at HMLA/T-303 in Camp Pendleton, California in 2010.

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, Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command (MARSOC), in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina and served as the Battalion Air Officer, Company Air Officer, and 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 joined 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. In July 2017 he was promoted to Major and received orders to Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron One (MAWTS-1) in Yuma, Arizona.

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, RQ-21A instructor, the USMC Digitally-Aided Close Air Support (DACAS) subject matter expert, 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 of the Executive Officer. During his time at VMU-1 he flew the RQ-21A in CONUS and concurrently the MQ-9A during contingency operations in the CENTCOM AOR.

In August of 2021 Major Kelly reported to the Pentagon in Washington D.C. for duties within HQMC Aviation Cunningham Group. Serving as a Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation (RDT&E) Portfolio Manager he was responsible for the advanced capability development of future Marine Corps Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) and Tactical Aircraft (TACAIR) platforms and weapons and was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel.

LtCol Kelly reported to MAG-24 in December 2023 to assume the duties of VMU-3 Commanding Officer.

Lieutenant Colonel Kelly’s personal awards include the Bronze Star with Combat Distinguishing Device, Meritorious Service Medal, Air Medal - Individual Action Numeral 1, Air Medal - Strike/Flight Numeral 7, Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal (3), Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, and Combat Action Ribbon.

1st Marine Aircraft Wing