Hillsborough grad works his way up to presidential strike advisor at Pentagon

Major James J. Kavanagh

Major James Kavanagh has served as a United States Marine for almost 24 years.

After graduating from Hillsborough High School in 1995 and then graduating from Penn State University, Kavanagh reported to The Basic School in Quantico, Virginia, where he held multiple billets as a training officer, protocol officer and warfighting operations Officer-in-Charge (OIC). After graduation, he attended the Air Defense Control Officer Course prior to reporting for duty at Marine Air Control Squadron 4.

While at Squadron 4, Kavanagh, a first lieutenant, held multiple billets as security manager, classified material control and reproduction officer, and NATO control officer, as well as Detachment OIC and future operations officer from the detachment to wing level during seven different exercises.

Kavanagh then deployed on a seven-month individual assignment to the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility as a joint interface control watch officer for Operations Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom, New Dawn and Unified Protector, as well as Horn of Africa, Gulf of Aden and Arabian Gulf missions.

He was promoted to captain while deployed to Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan.

Upon his return, Kavanagh was transferred to MTACS-18 as the training OIC. He earned multiple qualifications within the Tactical Air Command Center. He served as the III Marine Expeditionary Force Ballistic Missile Defense liaison officer for the United Nations Command/Combined Forced Command at Yongsan Army Garrison, South Korea for the North Korean missile launches, and the senior air coordinator for the Marine component of JTF-505 during Operation Damayan in the Philippines, executing humanitarian relief operations.

In June 2014, Kavanagh was assigned to Manpower and Reserve Affairs as the Aviation-Ground Company Grade Monitor for personnel assignments. He attended the U.S. Army’s Air Defense Artillery Captains Career Course. He completed the Air Defense Airspace Management/Brigade Aviation Element Tactical Ground Integration and the Joint Fires Observer courses.

Kavanagh was promoted to major and is currently assigned to the Joint Staff at the Pentagon as a presidential strike advisor and assistant deputy director for operations for the National Military Command Center.

His next tour will be back at Quantico to earn his master’s degree in military studies.

He has served in commands that have been awarded the Presidential Unit Citation, Joint Meritorious Unit Award, Navy Unit Commendation, Air Force Outstanding Unit Award, and the Meritorious Unit Commendation.