NORMAL — Jake Coyne says he's known for a long time he wanted to work with technology and to serve in the military.
The Illinois State University student from Palos Heights, who will receive his bachelor's degree in computer systems technology on Saturday with about 1,000 other students, has found a way to do both.
He will be commissioned Friday as a second lieutenant and become the first person from ISU's ROTC program to join the relatively new U.S. Army Cyber Command.
“I've always enjoyed taking random things apart and trying to put them back together,” said Coyne. “It all kind of made sense when I took a computer maintenance class my sophomore year” in high school. The more classes he took, the more he was hooked.
Coyne is awaiting orders and expects to report to the U.S. Army Cyber Protection Brigade at Fort Gordon, Ga.
Work on building the Cyber Mission Force, which involves all branches of the military, began in 2012 and in September 2016, the Army met its goal of fielding 41 cyber mission teams, according to the Cyber Command's website. Its mission includes conducting electronic warfare and ensuring freedom of action in cyberspace for the United States while denying it to adversaries.
The newness of the Cyber Command is part of what attracted Coyne.
“You're literally creating it,” he said. “You have the ability to affect change.”
As Coyne explains it, the military fights in five domains: land, sea, air, space and cyberspace.
“You're pretty much able to see a lot of what's happening” in the first four, but cyberspace is more hidden, he said.
“The possibilities of how they can come at you are limitless,” said Coyne. “That's what brings the excitement.”
Coyne added, “That's something that really excites me about technology as well — you always have to be learning.”
After attending Moraine Valley Community College for two years, Coyne started talking to military recruiters. His parents suggested he look into joining the ROTC, so he contacted ISU.
David Sanford, the Army ROTC recruiting officer for the ISU-based Redbird Battalion, said Coyne was proactive and showed a lot of focus and motivation from the moment he expressed interest in joining the ROTC program.
“That was a big selling point with Jake,” said Sanford. “That go-get-it attitude.”
He showed the same go-get-it attitude when he went after an assignment to the Cyber Command, agreeing to serve seven years of active duty and four years of inactive duty, instead of the usual four years of active duty.
Sanford said Coyne was always ready to jump in and help make the program better.
“The down side is we only got to spend two years with him here,” said Sanford.
Coyne said, “I came to realize my passion is for computers and learning” and he decided to pursue that because “I've seen what comes out of passion and hard work.”
His older sister, Kendall Coyne, has a Silver Medal from the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, where she played on the U.S. women's hockey team. She is heading to the Winter Olympics in South Korea in February. His sister's fiance, Michael Schofield of the Denver Broncos, has a Super Bowl ring.
“Sports or life, it's the same life lessons,” said Coyne.
Although Coyne was the first person from the Redbird Battalion to be selected for the Cyber Command, Sanford doubts that he will be the last.
Five current cadets are in ISU's new cybersecurity program, said Sanford.
Although ISU is the host of the Redbird Battalion and home to the overwhelming majority of the 171 students in the program, students from Illinois Wesleyan and Bradley universities also are part of the program.
Coyne is among three cadets who will be commissioned as second lieutenants Friday.