Rear Adm. Kenneth Whitesell is a native of Stuarts Draft, Virginia, and a 1983 graduate of Old Dominion University with a Bachelor of Science 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 in National Security and Strategic Studies.
Whitesell’s operational assignments include Fighter Squadron (VF) 142, USS Eisenhower (CVN 69); Top Gun training officer and assistant operations officer with 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 included 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 include tactics phase leader with VF-101, F-14 Fleet Replacement Squadron (FRS); assistant readiness officer, Commander, Fighter Wing Atlantic; a joint tour as strategic action officer, National Military Command Center, Joint Chiefs of Staff, Washington, District of Columbia; 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 assumed duties as deputy commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet, in July 2019.
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.