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Featured Family Member - Major General John Patrick (Pat) Cavanaugh


Major John Patrick Cavanaugh

I was born into a military family at Fort Knox, Kentucky in 1948. Although an army “brat” who moved around a lot, I spent a number of my early and teen years in the “Blue Grass” state and will always consider Kentucky home. I lived in Norway for four years when I was young and had a great time there ski jumping and indulging in many other outdoor activities. Playing baseball at 10 PM because it was still light was paradise, although it drove my parents, John and Dorothy crazy. I don't yet know which of my ancestors made the crossing from Ireland but I can trace my family back to James Cavanaugh and Mary Dougherty of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

I graduated from college in 1970 from Central Missouri State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Political Science. I was also  commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army Signal Corps from the Reserve Officers Training Corps in their first commissioning class. I immediately entered active duty and served for the next 32 years in the Army, rising to the rank of Major General. I earned a masters of arts degree in communications from the University of Northern Colorado in 1980.

During my 32 years I crossed the globe several times, served in some interesting places and met a lot of great people. My career has taken in 4 tours (11 years) in Germany, 2 tours (3 years) in Korea, and stints in a number of hot spots such as Iraq, Bosnia, Kosovo and Albania.

My most interesting assignment was in Northern Iraq during Operation Provide Comfort with the Kurds at the end of the Desert Storm. It was high adventure dealing with the Kurds, the Republican Guard and Saddam’s Special Police. This assignment led to one of my most memorable experiences. I returned from Iraq feeling like a hero and when I arrived at home, our youngest daughter Shannon had put up a big welcome home banner. There was a whirlwind of activity as our daughters Megan and Shannon came home from school, lots of hugs and kisses. But then they were quickly out the door again to more important activities -so much for the hero!

There were many challenging assignments but two do stand out. The first was in Korea as Commander of the 1st Signal Brigade during the Nuclear crisis with North Korea in 1994. Those were tense days planning and executing contingencies, as well as making sure that the soldiers’ families would be safe in the event of hostilities. The second was as Commanding General, 5th Signal Command, headquartered in Germany, responsible for all communications throughout Europe and the Balkans when the war was fought in Yugoslavia.

The assignment that I enjoyed the most was my very first one, with the 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry, 3d Infantry Division. Had a lot of fun and forged life long friendships in this unit. Lots of memories of cold, snow, mud, darkness and great friends as we would deploy to our positions along the German border.

I finished my career as the Commanding General of Ft Gordon and The U.S. Army Signal Center and as the Army’s Chief of Signal. I retired from active duty in September 2002. During my service I was honoured to receive the Distinguished Service Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster.

In 1968 I married a beautiful lady named Kay. In the following 32 years we moved home on more than twenty five occasions and she has still stayed with me! We have two beautiful daughters, Megan and Shannon. Megan made us proud grandparents with the birth of our grandson Tyler.

Retirement from the Army doesn’t mean retirement from life though! I’m now the President of Gate Safe, and adjusting well to civilian life. I still enjoy (maybe not enjoy) running and playing golf (although it doesn’t like me).

As a General I frequently was called upon to give speeches and had a message every time I spoke. So at the risk of boring you a little more here’s advice that I passed on:

  1. Have fun- whatever you’re doing, life’s too short not to enjoy what you’re doing
  2. Read and write- keeps you engaged, focused and sharpens your thinking
  3. Do your best, all the time. Whatever it is you’re doing do your best, or why do it
  4. Do the right things for the right reasons

I’m proud of having been a soldier and of being Irish. Have never been to Ireland but hope to visit soon.