REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- There were plenty of reasons to honor Army tradition on Jan. 20 as employees of the Program Executive Office for Missiles and Space joined with military and community leaders at a change of charter ceremony to say farewell to a beloved and respected two-star general and to welcome an equally esteemed civilian engineer as their new leader.

In an emotional ceremony at Redstone Arsenal, Department of the Army civilian Barry Pike assumed responsibility as the Program Executive Officer for Missiles and Space. The ceremony also included a promotion for the 30-year civil servant to senior executive service, tier 2.

"This is the only job I really wanted. Not just because it's at the top, but because of this great team," Pike said, adding that he is "phenomenally blessed" to lead the employees at PEO-Missiles and Space.

Pike is replacing Maj. Gen. Neil Thurgood, who has been assigned to work in the Pentagon in the office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology. Previously, Pike served in various roles at PEO-Missiles and Space, including program manager, chief of staff and acting PEO, and then took over responsibilities as the deputy PEO-Missiles and Space when Thurgood assumed the organization's top post nearly three years ago. The two leaders have worked together closely as a leadership team for the employees of the PEO, learning from each other, and working together to gain knowledge and experience to further the course of Army missile systems.

In passing on the PEO-Missiles and Space charter, Thurgood said Pike "is a great American, a native Alabamian … He is exactly the kind of leader we need on the civilian side of our workforce to be successful. I have all the sincerity and confidence in the world in him. He is absolutely the right man and right individual to be promoted … He's a great American who has the best interest of Soldiers at heart."

Heidi Shyu, assistant secretary of the Army (Acquisition, Logistics and Technology), who hosted the ceremony, said the PEO-Missiles and Space is one of the "most important and demanding jobs in the Department of Defense as it develops, produces, fields and supports air and missile defense, direct fires and aviation missile systems. Lives are at stake -- the lives of our deployed forces."

She commended the Thurgood-Pike leadership team and the dedication, hard work and team work of the PEO-Missiles and Space workforce, saying "you've done a superb job in strengthening and solidifying the trust between warfighters and missile systems they rely on for mission success and safely return home."

For Pike, Thurgood has been a model leader and servant, someone who he hopes to exemplify. He said Thurgood has been exceptional at "leading people, leading teams, and allowing us to understand more about Soldiers and how they do things."

During the ceremony, Pike presented his first SES, tier 2, coin to Thurgood. The second he gave to Shyu and the third to his father-in-law, Junior Hill.

Thurgood is among a list of leaders who Pike has learned from during his career, including his first supervisor at Redstone Arsenal, Harold Holmes; and such national missile defense leaders as the late Julian Davidson, and Bill Davis, Bill Davies, and George Williams, former Program Executive Officer for Tactical Missiles. These leaders represent a "tremendous legacy of brain power" and are considered "giants" in the world of missile defense technology, Pike said.

"I am very privileged to be able to grow up in that environment, and learn in that heavy research and development environment," he said.

Pike, a native of Hartselle who still lives in his hometown, is a chemical engineer graduated from Auburn University. His civilian career has included a one-year developmental assignment in the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition at the Pentagon in 1991, serving in a variety of key positions in the Army National Missile Defense Ground Based Elements Program Office from 1992-99, and then moving on to the PEO Missiles and Space. As part of the PEO Missiles and Space leadership team, he has assisted in managing an annual budget of more than $3.5 billion, a workforce of 2,000 civilians and contractors, eight project offices and more than $42 billion in foreign military sales involving 40 countries.

But, Pike's connection to Redstone Arsenal goes back before his own career. His father, who served in the Army in Germany just after World War II and one of 10 children, worked on Redstone as a taxi driver and died in 1970 when Pike was only nine.

Two of Pike's uncles, one who fought in the Pacific during World War II and the other who fought at the Battle of the Bulge and received a Purple Heart when he was wounded by a mortar that exploded outside a dining facility, helped to raise him, and he learned from their stories of the war. He also learned from the stories told by another uncle who served in Korea and another who served in Vietnam.

"That kind of service, for a young kid, that leaves an impression," Pike said. "Because of my Dad's service, I was able to afford a college education. The uncle who served in Korea used his GI Bill to get his college education and then served for decades as a government engineer on missile guidance systems, specifically for HELLFIRE and Pershing. He was my role model.

"Those kind of things in my background keep me here late, keep me motivated, keep me encouraged. We're not going to be denied. We're not going to be delayed. We're not going to be deterred. We're not going to get discouraged. We are going to move it all forward. It's time to lace up our bootstraps because we're moving forward."

Pike said his promotion ceremony isn't about him. The reason he shared his own family story is because everyone in the audience has similar stories of sacrifice and service that drive them to give their best efforts. Rather, it's about the family -- both at home, including wife Melanie and daughters Bonnie and Julianna, and at work -- who have supported him over the years, it's about his Army family and it's about the Soldiers who PEO-Missiles and Space support every day.

"This is our family. It's about this great family," he said.