Ron Keys was born on February 3, 1945, in Kansas. He was commissioned a 2d Lt in the U.S. Air Force through the Air Force ROTC program at Kansas State University on June 4, 1967, and completed Undergraduate Pilot Training at Reese AFB, Texas, in June 1968. Lt Keys next attended F-4 Phantom II Combat Crew Training at Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona, from July 1968 to March 1969, followed by service as an F-4 pilot with the 366th Tactical Fighter Wing at Da Nang AB, South Vietnam, from April 1969 to May 1970. He then served as an F-4 pilot with the 475th Tactical Fighter Wing at Misawa AB, Japan, from May 1970 to May 1971, and then as an F-4 pilot, flight examiner, and then as Chief of the Weapons and Tactics Division with the 18th Fighter Wing at Kadena AB, Okinawa, from May 1971 to April 1974. Maj Keys next served as an F-4 instructor pilot with the Air Force Fighter Weapons School at Nellis AFB, Nevada, from May 1974 to July 1979, followed by service as an Air Operations Officer with the Operational Test and Evaluation Division with Headquarters U.S. Air Force at the Pentagon from July 1979 to July 1981. He served as Assistant Executive Officer to the Chief of Staff of the Air Force in the Pentagon from July 1981 to December 1982, and then served as Chief of the Operations Training Division with the 1st Tactical Fighter Wing at Langley AFB, Virginia, from December 1982 to March 1984. Lt Col Keys next served as Commander of the 71st Tactical Fighter Squadron at Langley AFB from March 1984 to November 1985, followed by service as Special Assistant to the Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence with Headquarters Tactical Air Command at Langley from November 1985 to June 1986. His next assignment was as Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations with Headquarters Air Force Reserve at Robins AFB, Georgia, from June 1986 to August 1987, and he then attended Air War College at Maxwell AFB, Alabama, from August 1987 to May 1988. Col Keys served as Commandant of the Air Force Fighter Weapons School at Nellis AFB from June 1988 to July 1990, followed by service as Vice Commander and then Commander of the 36th Fighter Wing at Bitburg AB, Germany, from July 1990 to August 1992. His next assignment was as Senior Military Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear Security and Counterproliferation in the Office of the Secretary of Defense at the Pentagon from August 1992 to February 1994, and then as Commander of the 354th Fighter Wing at Eielson AFB, Alaska, from February 1994 to September 1995. Gen Keys served as Commander of the 53rd Wing at Eglin AFB, Florida, from October 1995 to February 1997, followed by service as Commander of the Air Force Doctrine Center at Maxwell AFB from February 1997 to September 1998. His next assignment was as Director of Operations for Headquarters U.S. European Command at Stuttgart, Germany, from September 1998 to May 2000, and then as Commander of Allied Air Forces Southern Europe, Stabilization Forces Air Component and Kosovo Forces Air Component, and as Commander of 16th Air Force and 16th Air and Space Expeditionary Task Force at Aviano AB, Italy, from May 2000 to November 2002. Gen Keys then served as Deputy Chief of Staff for Air and Space Operations with Headquarters U.S. Air Force in the Pentagon from November 2002 to May 2005, followed by service as Commander of Air Combat Command at Langley AFB from May 2005 until his retirement from the Air Force on November 1, 2007.
His 2nd Distinguished Flying Cross Citation reads:
First Lieutenant Ronald E. Keys distinguished himself by extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight as an F-4E aircraft commander near Chu Lai, Republic of Vietnam, on 7 June 1969. On that date, Lieutenant Keys conducted a highly successful attack against a fortified hostile emplacement. Despite intense ground fire, marginal weather and adverse terrain, Lieutenant Keys delivered his ordnance with extreme accuracy, completely destroying the hostile position. The professional competence, aerial skill and devotion to duty displayed by Lieutenant Keys reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.