Jack Ryan (full name John Patrick Ryan) was born and raised Towson, Maryland. His father, Emmet William Ryan, was a police homicide lieutenant and Vietnam War veteran; while his mother, Catherine Burke Ryan, was a nurse practitioner.

After graduating from Loyola Blakefield High School in Towson, Ryan went on to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He graduated from MIT with a Bachelor of Science in Economics and a commission as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps via the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps.

After The Basic School and the Infantry Officer Course at Quantico, Ryan was assigned to an infantry battalion as a rifle platoon commander. Just a couple of months later, his battalion was deployed to Iraq. Three months later Ryan's military career was cut short, when after a combat mission his platoon's helicopter was shot down by a rocket-propelled grenade. Ryan's back was badly injured in the crash and he was eventually given a medical discharge from the Marine Corps.

After his lengthy recovery process (during which he was nearly addicted to pain medications), he found employment as an entry-level analyst at an investment bank in Baltimore, Maryland. Soon afterwards, Ryan met and fell in love with Caroline "Cathy" Miller, the daughter of one of the investment bank's managing directors. Just a little over a year after meeting, he and Cathy, then a senior medical student at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, were married.

Just nineteen months after his near death experience in Iraq, Ryan's parents died in a plane crash at Chicago's Midway International Airport. As a result, he developed an unease about flying that persist to this day.

Shortly after, Ryan left the investment bank and entered the Lauder Program at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Very soon after earning both a Master of Business Administration in Finance and a Master of Arts in International Studies, he obtained a position as a financial analyst at the Washington, D.C. office of a global business advisory firm. Simultaneously, Ryan also began a part-time consultancy with the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Following a recommendation of Father Tim O'Riley, S.J., (a Georgetown University professor) to a CIA contact, he was asked to work as an outside consultant for the Agency, although officially employed by MITRE Corporation. Ryan agreed and later wrote a paper called "Agents and Agencies", in which he maintained that state-sponsored terrorism is an act of war. He also invented the "Canary trap," a method for exposing an information leak, which involves giving different versions of a sensitive document to each of a group of suspects and seeing which version gets leaked. By making sure that each copy of the document differs slightly in its wording, if any copy is leaked then it is possible to determine the identity of the informant.

Both of these accomplishments brought Ryan to the attention of Admiral James Greer, the Deputy Director for Intelligence at the CIA. The expertness of his report, plus the adaptation, persuaded Admiral Greer to offer him a permanent job in the CIA, which he turned down.

A few weeks later, Ryan and his family (wife and daughter Sally) took a trip to London for research and vacationing. After spending the day sifting through British Navy archives doing research for a book on the British naval war in the Indian Ocean during World War II, he walked to meet his family at a London park. As he joined them, members of the Ulster Liberation Army, an ultra-violent Maoist terrorist group, headed by a man named Kevin O'Donnell, attack a car containing a high-profile member of the British Parliament and his family right in front of Ryan and his wife and daughter. Ryan, while wounded, intervened in the attack and foiled their plan, killing one of the gunmen and capturing another.

Sean Miller, the man he captured, vowed revenge on Ryan and his family. But since he was going to Albany Prison on the Isle of Wight, the threat didn't seem serious. After being invested as a Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order by the Queen, Ryan returned to the United States and his financial analyst job. When O'Donnell and the ULA rescued Miller on his way to Albany Prison, Ryan and his family became the target of their revenge.

Admiral Greer came to Ryan and asked him to to join the CIA full-time as an intelligence analyst to help track down the terrorists. He declined initially, only to accept a couple of days later after a failed attack on himself and his family by the ULA injured his wife and daughter. Later, while Ryan hosted his parents-in-law at his home in Maryland, the ULA made a second attack on the Ryans, which was foiled by Jack and his father-in-law.

Following the incident and arrest of the ULA members, Ryan was initially assigned to London as a member of a CIA liaison group to the British Secret Intelligence Service. A few months later, he was reassigned to the CIA headquarters at Langley, Virginia. Ryan was then promoted to the position of a senior analyst and became Admiral Greer's assistant with the official title of Special Assistant to the Deputy Director for Intelligence. In this capacity, Jack Ryan serves as both an aide and policy advisor to Greer and he also occasionally travels abroad to serve as an on-field intelligence consultant to CIA paramilitary teams during covert and clandestine operations.

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