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Air Force veteran channels a passion for service into a passion for cybersecurity

Robert Wiley Jr. (left) alongside a Pakistani car mechanic in Afghanistan. Wiley served 21 years in the Air Force and will earn a Master of Science in Cyber Operations and Resilience online degree in August 2022.

Before starting his 21-year career in the Air Force, Robert Wiley Jr., a native of Meridian, Idaho, worked three jobs to keep up with out-of-state tuition and living expenses while attending DeVry University in Phoenix, Arizona. He paused his pursuit of an electronic engineer technology degree to return to Idaho to join the Air Force where many of his family members served.

The Air Force initially assigned Wiley to the vehicle maintenance arena as a fire truck mechanic. His interest in technology and “anything related to computers” provided other opportunities over the two decades in information security and security management, help desks and inventory.

After retiring from the Air Force, Wiley completed a bachelor’s degree in business management and set his sights on a graduate degree in the same field. He enrolled in Boise State’s online master of business administration program at the beginning of 2021, but his passion for cyber remained.

“After attending a few online classes, I came across a classmate who introduced me to Dr. [Sin Ming] Loo and Edward Vasko [of the Institute for Pervasive Cybersecurity],” he said. “We met for coffee to discuss their program and I felt elated that I could get back to what I was most passionate about from years ago at DeVry.”

New cyber successes

Robert Wiley Jr.

Wiley transitioned to the Master of Science in Cyber Operations and Resilience Online Degree Program which he will complete in August 2022.

As an employee of the Idaho Department of Finance in the Consumer Finance Bureau, Wiley conducts examinations of collection agencies licensed in the state. He also performs information technology audits where he reviews an extensive list that “boils down to how safe and secure the entity is at practicing protocols to keep the consumer information out of the hands of bad people.”

In the fall of 2021, Wiley and a team of three fellow Boise State students placed second in the inaugural Cybersecurity Entrepreneur Challenge presented by Boise State’s Venture College and Micron. Wiley and his teammates received an award of $8,000. Their project, Cyber Shield Elite, is a service that determines whether security alerts need further investigation, or if they happened because of user error.

A time for reflection

Despite his new career path and recent successes in cybersecurity, as Veterans Day approaches, Wiley reflects on his two decades in the Air Force and what the holiday means to him.

“It is a somber day,” he said. “Every tour, someone I knew or worked alongside perished during their tour of duty.”

Wiley often volunteered to witness and pay his respects when coffins would arrive at his temporary duty locations. His first experience of this occurred in 1998, when he assisted with a dignified transfer, the process by which fallen military members are transferred from an aircraft to a vehicle upon their return to the U.S.

“It was absolutely not a required task,” Wiley said. “There were several people who volunteered who could not take the emotions that came with transferring people.”

But Wiley continued. He assisted with 30 dignified transfers during his military career.

“It is a very humbling experience,” Wiley said. “These brave heroes moved me.”