A fellow alumnus of AMCOM commander Maj. Gen. Jim Myles was among the honorees Thursday during the Team Redstone Deployed Workforce Recognition Ceremony.

Jim Kelton got an extra hug when Myles presented his certificate of appreciation and commander's coin at Bob Jones Auditorium. Both are graduates of Middle Tennessee State University - Myles in 1974 and Kelton in 1977.

Kelton, assistant product manager for the Tactical Airspace Integration System in the Program Executive Office for Aviation, was among about 65 honorees. The ceremony recognized currently serving, deploying and returned Soldiers and civilians from Team Redstone.

"I think it was very fitting," Kelton said. "I particularly appreciate the fact that General Myles focused on the sacrifices made by our family members because they are the ones who have to carry on in the absence of their loved ones. The Army truly is an extended family."

The Murfreesboro, Tenn., native deployed in March to Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan as part of an eight-member team from the Product Manager's Office for Air Traffic Control. The team included three Soldiers, three Army civilians, one Marine Corps chief warrant officer and one contractor.

"For what we did we traveled from site to site via helicopter and sometimes Air Force fixed wing aircraft," said Kelton, 53. "Occasionally there would be gunfire outside the forward operating bases where we were or mortar attacks. But with the quality and professionalism of our force protection efforts, we never felt ourselves at risk. Our Soldiers do a phenomenal job of providing force protection for all personnel on our forward operating bases."

As assistant product manager, he said he volunteered to deploy to ensure the Tactical Airspace Integration System remains relevant to the war fighter. "And that's why every year I travel over in theater to check on how my weapon system is doing."

Kelton retired as a lieutenant colonel in 2000 after 23 years active duty. He worked here as a support contractor on the TAIS program from 2000-05. In 2005 he competed for a new government position to run the program and was selected. He and his wife, Anna, have three grown sons.

"Jim," Myles told him during the ceremony, "thank you for volunteering to go forward."

Myles personally thanked each honoree. They collectively received a standing ovation from the estimated 450 attendees.

"Without you we couldn't do what we're doing overseas to protect our Soldiers," Myles said, "and to protect our way of life."