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Illinois National Guard Soldier and OCS Candidate Becomes State Trooper

Illinois State Police Cadet Class 144 graduated from the academy in mid-December, among the class of new troopers were three Illinois National Guard servicemembers, including the class 144’s vice president, Jacob Harris.

            Harris’ graduation as a state trooper is another in a long list of Soldiers that have also been Illinois State Troopers, including the past commander of the Illinois Army National Guard, Maj. Gen. (retired) Michael Zerbonia, who retired as an Illinois State Police colonel, as well as Maj. Gen. Mark Jackson, who retired from the Army as the Deputy Commanding General of Operations for First Army and was a sergeant with the Illinois State Police. 

            Harris, a central Illinois native, enlisted in the Illinois National Guard in 2019 with the Co. B, 766th Engineer Battalion, based in Decatur, Illinois. Harris said he joined after riding in Gold Star Mission’s Gold Star 500 with Col. David Helfrich and retired Lt. Col. Chuck Kitson and said he wanted to do something more and be a “part of something greater than himself.”

            Harris said the 28-week academy was grueling, and adding Officer Candidate School on top, was a huge challenge.

            “It’s been grueling,” said Harris. “Going from the rigors of the academy with no break rolling directly into a physically demanding weekend at OCS once a month has been a challenge, but the academy has been very accommodating, and I have a great support system in place with my mentors, Colonel Helfrich and Colonel Kitson.”

            Harris said he plans to branch as an engineer officer after graduating from OCS.

            “I like being able to do something different on my drill weekends, something completely unrelated to my civilian job,” said Harris. “I like the engineers, so it’s one of my top three branch choices, along with infantry.”

            Harris’ first assignment as a trooper will be in the Chicago area, but he said he’ll continue to press through OCS and stay in the Guard as long as it’s still something that brings him some joy.

            “I’d really like to stay in for the long-haul,” said Harris. “I’ve got some great mentors that will help me make a career out of the Guard. As long as it doesn’t interfere with my professional goals and I’m having a good time doing it, I’ll keep at it.”

            “Who knows? I may even make colonel one day,” Harris added.

Those interested in joining the Illinois Army National Guard may visit for more information. Those interested in the Illinois Air National Guard may visit the recruiting sites of the three Illinois Air National Guard wings in Springfield:, Peoria:, or Scott Air Force Base:

Illinois National Guard Soldiers and Airmen interested in pursuing a parallel career in the Illinois State Police may visit for more information.

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