Robert D. Chelberg - US Army - North Palm Beach, FL

Education and Training Accomplishments: 
1961 – Bachelor in Science in the Arts and Sciences, United States Military Academy, West Point, NY 
1961 – Basic Course, Field Artillery
1967 – Field Artillery Advanced Course 
1969 – Command and General Staff College 
1973 – Master of Business Administration, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, NM 

  • Phi Eta Sigma Honor Society, member 
  • Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society, member 
  • New Mexico State University’s Business School Hall of Fame, inducted in 2001 

1979 – 1980 National War College, Washington, DC 

Professional or Employment History:

2010-2016 – Special Advisor, TASC, Inc.
2006 – 2011 – Special Advisor for European Weapons of Mass Destruction Exercises, Northrop Grumman, Belgium
    • Senior Mentor for Foreign Consequence Management Exercises to develop solutions for weapons of mass destruction attacks made against NATO forces and NATO populations.
2003 – 2006 – Program Manager, Defense Threat Reduction Agency Field Office, Northrop Grumman, Belgium
     • Evaluated nuclear, chemical, and biological threats against SHAPE, NATO, and EUCOM.
1996-2003 – European Program Manager/Managing Director, Cubic Applications, Inc.
   • Advising on organizational structure and computer assisted training exercises to former Warsaw Pact Nations.
1994-1995 – Deputy Director, George C. Marshall Center for European Security Studies, Garmisch, Germany 
     •  Decorated for exceptional Civilian Service, signed by Secretary of the Army    
   •    Led the establishment of a preeminent institution in democratic defense management and security studies involving the countries of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Central Europe, and the former Soviet states. 

1993 – Retired from the U.S. Army after 32 years of service.

1991-93 – Chief of Staff, U.S. European Command, Stuttgart Germany 
    •    Participated in Desert Storm, Operation Provide Comfort, saving 455,000 Kurdish people in Northern Iraq 
    •    Relief and rescue contingency operations in Africa 
    •    Over 320,000 in the command
1990 – Special Advisor to the NATO Secretary General, Brussels, Belgium
    • Promoted to Lieutenant General in 1991
1988 – Chief Defense Planner, Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE), Mons, Belgium
    • Promoted to Major General
1986 – Executive to the Supreme Allied Commander Europe, (SACEUR), Mons, Belgium
1984 – Chief of Staff, Deputy Commander, Fort Jackson, SC « Promoted to Brigadier General, led basic training for soldiers
1981-83 – 528th Artillery Group Commander 
    •    Two years 
    •    Protected and assembled all the nuclear weapons in Turkey 
1980-81 – Deputy Director for Military Personnel Policy, Office of the Secretary of Defense, U.S. Pentagon
1977-78 – Personnel Assignment Officer and Military Action Officer for the Chief of Staff the Army, U.S. Pentagon
1973-76 – Division Artillery Operations Officer and Battalion Commander, Fort Hood, TX
1966-67; 1970-71 – Battalion Operations Officer, U.S. Army 
    •    Two tours in Vietnam 
    •    Served in three Battalions 
1965 – Battery Commander, Headquarters 7th Core Artillery, Germany 
1964 – Battery Commander, 8-inch Howitzer, Germany
1962 – Platoon Leader of a Nike Hercules Missile Battery, Detroit, MI 

Advocacy on Behalf of Veterans: 

It often takes a visionary leader to recognize gaps and make meaningful impacts. Lieutenant General (Ret.) Robert Chelberg is such a leader. Established in 2009, the Wounded Veterans Relief Fund was created with the mission to support Florida’s disabled veterans by relieving their financial strains and facilitating their transition to civilian life. General Chelberg, part of WVRF family since 2012, joined the organization as a well-decorated career service member and immediately introduced ideas to strengthen WVRF. In 2014, he began serving as president of the fifteen-member volunteer board of directors for WVRF, bolstering its fundraising strategy, redefining its vision, and shaping much of what it is today. 

“When you add all the people who have served or are serving, it is only 1% of the U.S. population. It is beholden to the 99% of people who didn’t serve to help them.” These are the words that guide General Chelberg’s commitment to WVRF. With General Chelberg at the helm, WVRF gained a proven fundraiser to generate the funding that is the lifeblood of its work. The organization provides temporary emergency financial assistance to qualified disabled veterans in Florida, home to the third largest population of veterans in the country. It supports men and women who served in World War II to present day conflicts. Recognizing the immense need among Florida’s veterans. General Chelberg is a tireless advocate. Due to his work, over 10,000 veterans and their families received more than $5 million dollars in direct financial assistance. His first fundraiser in 2012 raised $132,000 and steered the organization on a course to strengthen its fundraising capability. 

Much of WVRF resources are allocated to actively confront a common crisis – homelessness among veterans. Over the years, thousands of Florida’s veterans and their families, due to WVRF’s interventions, were spared from homelessness, an issue on which General Chelberg proved to be a fierce advocate. All major Veterans Administration Medical Centers in Florida refer veterans to WVRF for temporary emergency financial needs to critical services – many times to avoid homelessness. To illustrate the delicate balance that confronts veterans trying to stay in their homes, they often seek assistance from WVRF for basic needs such as: electric, gas, or water utilities; car repairs, license, insurance, home repairs, and other emergencies. It is not unheard of for WVRF to pay creditors for rent or mortgage to prevent a veteran from being evicted. General Chelberg insists that at least 85% of WVRF revenue go directly to veterans for needs like these. 

Perhaps one of WVRF’s greatest impacts is raising awareness of the challenges that veterans face, a result of the significant efforts of General Chelberg. Recently, the intricate connection between good oral health and overall health became better understood. Diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, osteoporosis, respiratory disease, dementia, rheumatoid arthritis, pregnancy complications, and mouth cancer – all are linked to poor dental health. 

Encouragingly, good oral hygiene and treatment can reduce heart attacks by 35%. However, General Chelberg was startled to learn that 92% of veterans served by the VA system are ineligible for dental care benefits. Recognizing the importance of oral health, General Chelberg, with advice from Dr. Tom Roberts, set a goal for the organization – to launch a pilot dental program. 

The case for this program was underscored when a veteran’s oral cancer was discovered during a dental evaluation made possible through WVRF. The lives of at least two veterans were saved due to WVRF’s efforts when their oral diseases were discovered and treated. The lack of access to dental care has other devastating consequences – gum disease, chronic bad breath, tooth decay, mouth sores – leading to loss of self-esteem and mental health decline. It is not uncommon for veterans to miss job opportunities because of poor oral aesthetics, jeopardizing their transition to civilian life.

The fledgling program started in 2020, with a pilot in Palm Beach County that offered emergency dental assistance to qualified veterans. It supports veterans with 10% or more service-connected disability who can prove they need emergency dental care that they are unable to afford. The connection between mental health and oral health and the demand for mental health services emphasizes the need to expand dental care access for veterans. Under General Chelberg’s leadership, the dental program will eventually be available to qualified veterans throughout Florida. In the interim, he has the commitment of ten dentists to support WVRF’s Dental Program.

General Chelberg, despite serving as a volunteer, works every day in close collaboration with WVRF’s Executive Director, Michael Durkee. He is involved in daily operations and they make decisions on all issues that affect the nonprofit together, including on fundraising, advocacy, public relations, media appearances, and new initiatives. He also proved his deep-rooted commitment to WVRF and the veterans it serves by personally donating annually to the organization each year since he has been involved. WVRF earned the Community Hero’s Assistance Award in October 2015 from the Military Officers Association of America. This is evidence of General Cherlberg’s advocacy and contributions to the improved welfare of Florida’s veterans. 

Civic Activities and Contributions: 

General Chelberg lives a life of service to his country and his community, both during his career and now as a civilian. While based in Aiken County, South Carolina, he was involved in the Rotary Club and was a community volunteer. General Chelberg developed his fundraising prowess there when he led a campaign to raise funds for a no-kill animal shelter in that county. Over three years, his campaign generated $4.2 million dollars, which resulted, two years later, in a state-of-the-art animal facility being built. Further, in a collaboration between the Rotary Club and Aiken County, General Chelberg coordinated military equipment displays with the South Carolina National Guard. He became a Harris Fellow with the Rotary Club. His time with the Rotary Club taught him various ways of serving his community, lessons he implements with WVRF today. Additionally, he served as president of the Federation of German American Clubs from 1994 to 1996 when he was based in Europe. Finally, General Chelberg belongs to the Association of the United States Army and the Military Officers Association of America, a lifetime member of both organizations. 

Awards and Honors: 
    •    Defense Distinguished Service Medal 
    •    Army Distinguished Service Medal 
    •    Defense Superior Service Medals 
    •    Legion of Merit
    •    Five Bronze Stars
    •    Two Meritorious Service Medals
    •    Ten Air Medals
    •    three Army Commendation Medals (once with V-Device) 
    •    Presidential Unit Citation (Navy)
    •    Marquis Who’s Who in America, 1993 – 2017 
    •    Marquis Who’s Who in the World, 2007 –
    •    Outstanding Alumnus of Lake Superior State University, 
    •    1986 Veteran of the Year, VFW Post 3676, 1985
    •    Distinguished Eagle Scout Award, 1990 

Written Narrative: 

Frequently, nonprofits fill the niche where the government and the private sector fall short. It is not an understatement to say that WVRF, under the visionary leadership of General Chelberg, fills critical gaps in services for wounded veterans in Florida. WVRF’s impact and accomplishments are irrevocably tied to his efforts and contributions. From his earliest involvement in 2012 with WVRF, General Chelberg offered his wealth of expertise to strengthen the organization. Since he became president of WVRF’s all volunteer-run board of directors in 2014, General Chelberg has worked tirelessly on a daily basis to bolster its fiscal responsibility, grow its fundraising strategy, develop its advisory team, and serve as a staunch advocate for wounded veterans. 

When General Chelberg attended his first WVRF meeting, he was adamant that the organization have a sound fiscal infrastructure and protections. Cognizant of other veterans organizations that had mismanaged their funds, he wanted to ensure that WVRF had good financial practices and oversight. At his recommendation, an independent certified public accountant firm was engaged and hired. It remains important to him that WVRF be good stewards of funds meant to serve veterans. General Chelberg further insisted that the organization have insurance for members of its voluntary board of directors, an idea that was again adopted. In keeping with best practices and his adherence to them, the insurance carrier is changed on a regular basis to ensure that the organization has the best coverage at the fairest rates. 

Moreover, General Chelberg knows that fundraising is the sustenance of any nonprofit organization and recognized that WVRF needed to improve its capability to raise funds. His first fundraiser generated $132,000, and since then efforts expanded to include golf tournaments, its signature gala, and other events. General Chelberg also invested in grant writing efforts and engaged the services of grant writers. Along with WVRF’s Executive Director, Michael Durkee, he is a visible force in the community, connecting with potential donors, and working with independent grant writers to generate funding streams. As one example, General Chelberg collaborated with the grant writing team to successfully secure a $50,000 donation from a West Point colleague. As testament to General Chelberg’s work alongside Mr. Durkee, WVRF raised over $1.4 million dollars in one year, of which, at his direction, at least 85% of generated funds is spent directly on veterans. 

General Cherlberg is insightful, innovative, and frequently looks outside of WVRF for ways to improve the organization. Inspired by the example of another nonprofit, he introduced the idea of an advisory board. Adopted by WVRF, this advisory board meets four times a year, though General Chelberg frequently calls upon its members for advice between gatherings. As WVRF’s biggest advocate and champion, he is always looking for community leaders to join both the advisory board and board of directors. General Chelberg is proud to have recruited a four-star Admiral, a two-star general, an astronaut, and the national representative of Tire Kingdom for WVRF’s advisory board. He also actively recruits for WVRF’s Board of Directors, whose appointees are voted in by fellow members. General Chelberg effectively built a strong and active advisory board and board of directors, thereby ensuring continued community support and growth. 

It is probably an anomaly that as president of WVRF’s Board of Directors that General Chelberg is involved in the daily operations of WVRF. When asked why he is so invested in his volunteer role, he confesses, “I strongly feel that any person who has served in our armed forces and comes home after serving, deserves any support they need to get back on their feet.” General Chelberg works almost each day with Mr. Durkee and is involved in the daily operations as well as its long­ term vision. In the community, he is often a guest on television and radio shows, advocating for veterans in Florida and for WVRF’s service to wounded veterans. He is outspoken about the challenges that face veterans and the need to help their transition to civilian life. 

General Chelberg served his country in the military and as a civilian for over four decades. His contributions to our country over his 32-year military career is significant and he is decorated with numerous awards and honors. He left Europe in 2006 and settled in Aiken, South Carolina. In May 2011, he and wife, Victoria, moved to Florida. He continues to give back to veterans not only in Palm Beach County, but throughout the state of Florida through his involvement and leadership with WVRF. While he has more than earned a quiet, restful retirement, WVRF is grateful for his commitment and contributions to serving wounded veterans in Florida. WVRF wholeheartedly and without reservation supports his nomination to the Florida Veterans Hall of Fame.