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Submitted by Hagerla family
A retirement ceremony was conducted at the Edina Assembly of God Church on Sunday, Jan. 14, 2024, for Lt. Col. Kelby Hagerla, a former Knox County resident and 1999 graduate of the Knox County High School. His wife of 20 years, Becca, and their children, Haley (15) and Aaron (12) were in attendance, travelling to Edina from their home in Easley, SC, near Greenville. Lt. Col. Hagerla is the son of Kent and Debbie Hagerla of rural Edina (Class of 1972). His sister, Devon (Class of 2004), her husband, Stephen, and their family live in Hannibal. The day was frigid, but many friends, neighbors, and family still made it out to attend.
Upon graduation from KCHS, Kelby received an appointment to the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, CO. He completed his studies there in 2003 with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering (and later an M.B.A. in Finance and Entrepreneurship from Park University). He was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in June of 2003 and selected for pilot training. He finished USAF Undergraduate Pilot Training in 2005 and was assigned to fly the C-17 Globemaster III cargo jet. From 2005 to 2010, he was stationed at Charleston Air Force Base, SC where he flew overseas missions in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. In 2010, he moved to Altus Air Force Base, OK where he was a flight instructor, teaching 12 different formal training courses in the C-17. From 2005 to 2019, he logged over 2,500 hours in the C-17. Kelby was qualified to train students in the C-17 simulators, as well as certify the simulators. He taught brand new C-17 pilots, conducted check rides across all levels of pilot proficiency, taught pilots learning to be aircraft commanders and instructors, and also trained students how to airdrop equipment and personnel out of the C-17.
His three deployments and other C-17 missions took him to six continents and approximately 35 countries. Accruing more than 425 combat flight hours, he was awarded three Air Medals and one Air Force Achievement Medal. He was also awarded three Air Force Commendation Medals, three Meritorious Service Medals, Flight Commander of the Year, and Squadron Pilot of the Year during his Air Force career.
In 2014, Kelby transitioned out of Active Duty and into the Air Force Reserves where he continued flying and instructing in the C-17 at Altus Air Force Base. In 2016, he was hired by Delta Air Lines and began flying the Boeing 757 and 767 out of Atlanta, GA. He continued flying the C-17 part time in the AF Reserves in Altus while flying full-time for Delta. In 2019, Kelby transitioned to serve as an Air Force Liaison to the Civil Air Patrol, where he served until his retirement after mentoring countless cadets and staff. Kelby recently trained in and now flies the Airbus 350 for Delta out of Atlanta.
Throughout his time in the Air Force, Kelby has enjoyed many hobbies and pastimes. He had the opportunity to play baseball for the U. S. Air Force Academy as well as amassing over 500 jumps as a member of the Wings of Blue Parachute Demonstration Team at USAFA. Their team jumped into pro stadiums and other outdoor events to promote the Air Force and the Air Force Academy. He enjoys wakeboarding playing softball, golf, tennis, riding motocross and go karts, flying his 6-seater Piper plane, and especially doing many of these activities with his family.
The retirement ceremony was emceed by his brother-in-law, SSG Stephen Breitling of the Missouri National Guard. Kelby’s sister, Devon, sang the national anthem. The Presiding Officer for the day was Lt. Col. Jeff Hoelscher. Lt. Col. Hoelscher presented the Meritorious Service Medal for outstanding service in performing duties as the regional safety officer for the mid-Atlantic Region of the Civil Air Patrol. During his tenure there, Kelby oversaw intense training courses, helped to locate and rescue three missing persons, worked to ensure readiness, and promoted the U. S. Air Force and flying to youth in the region.
Lt. Col. Hoelscher commented on accomplishments during his career, presented a Certificate of Retirement, and Certificate of Appreciation from the President. Kelby’s wife, Rebecca, was presented with a Certificate of Appreciation for her years of support and sacrifice during her husband’s military career. The ceremony concluded with the playing of the Air Force song. A reception was held following the ceremony, with Lt. Col. Hagerla (Ret.) and his family greeting friends and guests in attendance.