Major General Cavanaugh is a native of Baltimore, Maryland. He earned his commission in the Marine Corps in 1990 and was designated a Naval Aviator in 1992.
From 1993-1997, Major General Cavanaugh was assigned duties with HMH-462 in Tustin, California. He served in the Maintenance Department and later as the Logistics Officer, Intelligence Officer and the Operations Officer. During his time in the squadron, Major General Cavanaugh completed two tours to Okinawa, Japan, as part of the Unit Deployment Program (UDP) and served twice with the 31st MEU (SOC) conducting shipboard operations throughout the Pacific.
From 1998-2001, Major General Cavanaugh was assigned to HMH-362 in Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii where he served as the Aircraft Maintenance Officer and as the Director for Safety and Standardization. After his tour with the Ugly Angels, Major General Cavanaugh was assigned to HMX-1 in Quantico, Virginia, where he served as the Quality Assurance Officer and as the Aircraft Maintenance Officer for the Greenside Maintenance Department.
After completing his tour at HMX-1 in 2004, Major General Cavanaugh was selected as the Aide-de-Camp to the 27th Chief of Naval Operations (CNO). Major General Cavanaugh served as the Aide-de-Camp for both Admiral Vern Clark and the 28th CNO, Admiral Mike Mullen.
In 2006, Major General Cavanaugh assumed command of the Ugly Angels and deployed the squadron to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. During this deployment, his squadron was recognized as the Squadron of the Year and three Marines under his command were recognized as the Marine Corps Aviator of the Year, Crew Chief of the Year and Ordnance Man of the Year.
From 2013-2015, Major General Cavanaugh served as the MAG-36 Commanding Officer. As the 3d MEB ACE, MAG-36 deployed in direct support of Operation Damayan, typhoon relief in the Philippines. In 2015, elements from the MAG deployed in direct support of Operation Sahayogi Haat, earthquake relief in Nepal. MAG-36 conducted a myriad of bilateral exercises throughout the U.S. Pacific Command area of operations.
During the periods between his operational tours, Major General Cavanaugh’s staff tours include service as an instructor at the Officer Candidates School, as the Joint Doctrine Branch Chief on the Joint Staff and as the Executive Assistant to the Vice Director of the Joint Staff. He later served as the Director of the Commandant of the Marine Corps’ Safety Division and as the Marine Military Assistant to the 75th Secretary of the Navy.
As a General Officer, he served as the Deputy Commander U.S. Marine Forces Pacific, the Deputy Director for Operations on the Joint Staff J-3, and the Assistant Deputy Commandant, Programs within HQMC Programs and Resources Department.
Major General Cavanaugh’s education includes a BS in Mechanical Engineering from the United States Naval Academy, an MBA from Webster University and a Master of Science in National Resource Strategy from the National Defense University’s Industrial College of the Armed Forces. He is also an MIT Seminar XXI Fellow.
Major General Cavanaugh’s personal decorations include the Defense Superior Service Medal (two awards), the Legion of Merit with two Gold Stars, the Bronze Star Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal with two Gold Stars, the Air Medal with Strike/Flight numeral 5, the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, the Joint Service Achievement Award, the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, the Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal, and the Presidential Service and Joint Staff Badges.
Major General Cavanaugh has accumulated over 3,000 flight hours in various aircraft, but primarily in the CH-53D/E.