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First Name: Ronald

Last Name: Keys


Gender: Male

Branch: Air Force (1947 - present)

Middle Name: Ellis

Date of Birth: 03 February 1945

Rank: General

Years Served: 1967 - 2007
Ronald Ellis Keys

•  Vietnam War (1960 - 1973)


Ronald Ellis Keys

General, U.S. Air Force

Ronald Ellis Keys was born on 3 February 1945.

As a distinguished graduate of Kansas State University's AFROTC program, Keys, was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force in 1967. He was also an outstanding graduate of undergraduate pilot training. He has commanded a fighter squadron; the U.S. Air Force Fighter Weapons School; an F-15 wing; an A/OA-10 and F-16 wing; the Combat Air Forces Operational Test and Evaluation Wing; a numbered air force; and Allied Air Forces Southern Europe.

Additionally, Keys was the first Commander of the Air Force Doctrine Center, and served as an Executive Assistant to the Air Force Chief of Staff and to an Assistant Secretary of Defense. Prior to his current assignment, he was Deputy Chief of Staff for Air and Space Operations, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Washington, DC.

In 2002, Keys was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard B. Myers' choice to succeed Lieutenant General Gregory S. Newbold as Director of Operations (J-3) for the Joint Staff. By long-standing tradition, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs had been allowed to select his own top subordinates, but Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld adopted a sharply different practice of personally interviewing all candidates for three- and four-star rank. Rumsfeld vetoed Keys' appointment after two interviews, forcing Myers to select Lieutenant General Norton A. Schwartz instead. The failure of Keys' nomination was subsequently recounted by senior military officers as an illustration of strained civilian-military relations at the Pentagon under Rumsfeld's leadership.

On 27 May 2005, Keys was promoted to the four-star rank of General and assigned as Commander, Air Combat Command (COMACC). In this command, Keys was responsible for organizing, training, equipping and maintaining combat-ready forces for rapid deployment and employment while ensuring strategic air defense forces are ready to meet the challenges of peacetime air sovereignty and wartime defense. ACC operates more than 1,100 aircraft, 25 wings, 15 bases and more than 200 operating locations worldwide with 105,000 active-duty and civilian personnel. When mobilized, the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve contribute more than 800 aircraft and 57,000 people to Air Combat Command.

As the Combat Air Forces lead agent, ACC develops strategy, doctrine, concepts, tactics and procedures for air and space power employment. The command provides conventional, nuclear and information warfare forces to all unified commands to ensure air, space and information superiority for warfighters and national decision-makers. ACC can also be called upon to assist national agencies with intelligence, surveillance and crisis response capabilities.

On 30 August 2007, personnel under his command mistakenly, and without authorization, transported six live nuclear warheads from Minot Air Force Base to Barksdale Air Force Base in the 2007 U.S. Air Force nuclear weapons incident. The event was the first recorded mishandling of nuclear weapons in the U.S. in more than 30 years.

General Keys retired effective 1 November 2007. During his service, he became a Command Pilot with over 4,000 flying hours, including more than 300 hours of combat time in Southeast Asia. His flight hours were accumulated in A-10, F-4, F-15 Eagle and F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft.


1967 Bachelor's degree in Entomology, Kansas State University, Manhattan

1971 Squadron Officer School

1974 Air Command and Staff College

1978 Master's degree in Business Administration, Golden Gate University, San Francisco, CA

1988 Air War College, Maxwell AFB, AL


• June 1967 - July 1968, student, undergraduate pilot training, Reese AFB, TX.
• July 1968 - March 1969, student, F-4 training, Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ.
• April 1969 - May 1970, F-4 Aircraft Commander, 366th Tactical Fighter Wing, Da Nang AB, South Vietnam.
• May 1970 - May 1971, F-4 Aircraft Commander, 475th Tactical Fighter Wing, Misawa AB, Japan.
• May 1971 - April 1974, F-4 Aircraft Commander, Flight Examiner, later, Chief, Wing Weapons and Tactics Division, 18th Tactical Fighter Wing, Kadena AB, Japan.
• May 1974 - July 1979, F-4 Instructor Pilot and Flight Commander, U.S. Air Force Fighter Weapons School, Nellis AFB, NV.
• July 1979 - July 1981, Air Operations Officer, Operational Test and Evaluation Division, Directorate of Operations Readiness, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Washington, DC.
• July 1981 - December 1982, Assistant Executive Officer to the Air Force Chief of Staff, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Washington.
• December 1982 - March 1984, Chief, Operations Training Division, 1st Tactical Fighter Wing, Langley AFB, VA.
• March 1984 - November 1985, Commander, 71st Tactical Fighter Squadron, Langley AFB.
• November 1985 - June 1986, Special Assistant to the Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence, Headquarters Tactical Air Command, Langley AFB.
• June 1986 - August 1987, Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations, Headquarters Air Force Reserve, Robins AFB, GA.
• August 1987 - May 1988, student, Air War College, Maxwell AFB, AL.
• June 1988 - July 1990, Commandant, U.S. Air Force Fighter Weapons School, Nellis AFB, NV.
• July 1990 - August 1992, Vice Commander, later, Commander, 36th Fighter Wing, Bitburg AB, Germany.
• August 1992 - February 1994, Senior Military Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear Security and Counterproliferation, Office of the Secretary of Defense, Washington, DC.
• February 1994 - September 1995, Commander, 354th Fighter Wing, Eielson AFB, AL.
• October 1995 - February 1997, Commander, 53rd Wing, Eglin AFB, FL.
• February 1997 - September 1998, Commander, Air Force Doctrine Center, Maxwell AFB.
• September 1998 - May 2000, Director of Operations, Headquarters U.S. European Command, Stuttgart, Germany.
• May 2000 - November 2002, Commander, Allied Air Forces Southern Europe, Stabilization Forces Air Component and Kosovo Forces Air Component, Naples, Italy; and Commander, 16th Air Force and 16th Air and Space Expeditionary Task Force, Aviano AB, Italy.
• November 2002 - May 2005, Deputy Chief of Staff for Air and Space Operations, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Washington.
• May 2005 - October 2007, Commander, Air Combat Command, Langley AFB, Air Component Commander for U.S. Joint Forces Command and for U.S. Northern Command.

Promotion Dates

Second Lieutenant - 4 June 1967

First Lieutenant - 4 December 1968

Captain - 4 June 1970

Major - 1 March 1979

Lieutenant Colonel - 1 November 1981

Colonel - 1 November 1986

Brigadier General - 15 July 1994

Major General - 1 July 1997

Lieutenant General - 1 July 2000

General - 27 May 2005

Medals and Awards

Defense Distinguished Service Medal (2 Awards)

Distinguished Service Medal

Defense Superior Service Medal

Legion of Merit (2 Awards)

Distinguished Flying Cross (2 Awards)

Defense Meritorious Service Medal

Meritorious Service Medal (6 Awards)

Air Medal (17 Awards)

Air Force Commendation Medal (2 Awards)

Combat Readiness Medal (4 Awards)

Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm

Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal


Command Pilot Badge
Joint Chiefs of Staff Identification Badge

Honoree ID: 760   Created by: MHOH




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