ML (Matt) Cavanaugh (CV available here) is a US Army Strategist currently on sabbatical at the US Air Force Academy. His most recent previous duty was at United States Army Space and Missile Defense Command at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado. Prior to Colorado, he was lead war planner in Korea at US Second Infantry Division for one year, and before that, an Assistant Professor at the US Military Academy at West Point, New York. Under Matt’s leadership, his military strategy course was recognized across the Academy as uniquely valuable to cadets; he was selected as the 2014 winner of the Apgar Award for Excellence in Teaching from eleven nominees drawn from a body of 600-plus Academy instructors. He also received “Teacher of the Year” honors in the Defense & Strategic Studies Program. In 2015, Matt was the youngest recipient of the Order of Saint Gabriel the Archangel, a professional honor bestowed by the US Military Strategists Association (now known as the Army Strategists Association).
Prior to teaching at West Point, Matt was a Strategic Planner at the Pentagon, serving in the Department of the Army’s Readiness Division (2009-2010). He has also served in a critical staff role as an Operations Watch Officer for US Strategic Command (Missile Defense) at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado (2006-2007).
In combat directly after graduating from West Point in 2002, Matt served with Second Squadron, Third Armored Cavalry Regiment. From the ground invasion of Iraq until 2004, Matt’s unit fought in the areas from Fallujah to Ramadi. As Platoon Leader he led his soldiers on raids, route clearance, as well as long-range reconnaissance to scout Iraqi border patrol checkpoints in the Western desert. Matt deployed to Iraq again in early 2005, this time to Tal’Afar in the country’s northwest. As Executive Officer he led a Headquarter’s Platoon of 48 soldiers and managed support operations in a battery that fired nearly 1200 rounds in urban combat. For these deployments, Matt twice earned the Bronze Star Medal, the Iraq Campaign Medal (with Four Bronze Service Stars), the Valorous Unit Award (Second Award), and the Combat Action Badge. Some of his other military awards and honors include the Meritorious Service Award, Joint Service Commendation Medal, Army Commendation Medal (Third Award), Army Achievement Medal (Third Award), Most Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal (Second Award), and the Army Staff Identification Badge.
Matt remains active by supporting numerous community organizations – particularly as an advocate for Veterans as a member of the Wounded Warrior Project’s Advisory Board from 2014-2017. Matt also founded Team Wounded Warrior Project Minnesota with friend and Air Force Veteran Tom Cocchiarella. The effort began on Veteran’s Day 2008 raising money and awareness for the national Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) organization through ultra and marathon distance running events. Through 2010, the small organization recorded approximately $130,000 in donations and was the WWP’s top grassroots fundraiser. Though an overseas assignment forced Matt into a supporting role, Team WWP Minnesota’s solid foundation has led to continued fundraising success cumulatively totaling over $700,000. Matt spent two years as the Head Coach of the West Point Marathon Team, with 18 cadets and an annual budget of over $50,000. In 2014, Matt guided the Cadet Community for Civil Military Operations in gathering 300+ blankets for Afghan refugees. He also founded the Cadet Yoga Club at West Point, bringing important resiliency training and education to support the Army’s future leaders.
As an athlete, Matt was named the 2009 US Army Athlete of the Year by the Association of the United States Army. He has competed with the All-Army Cross Country Team, the All-National Guard Marathon Team, and the Minnesota National Guard Biathlon Team. As a scholar, Matt earned his Master’s in Strategic Studies at Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand and is currently at work on a PhD dissertation on supreme command at the University of Reading (UK). He is a Term Member with the Council on Foreign Relations, a Non Resident Fellow at the Modern War Institute at West Point, and has been published in several peer-reviewed military and academic journals. Matt has represented the United States in an official capacity in eleven countries, including: Iraq, Kuwait, Norway, Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Latvia, South Korea, and Great Britain.
Most important of all, Matt is happily married to the retired San Francisco Ballet Principal Ballerina Rachel (Viselli) Murdock of Salt Lake City, Utah. They have an amazing (and often challenging) six-year-old daughter Grace Victoria, a three-year-old named Georgina Tate, and a Boston Terrier named Mickey that spends too much time on the couch. In the long run, they intend to climb off into the sunset in the mountains of Colorado or Utah.