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While attending law school at UNC, Cal Cunningham initially enlisted in the U.S. Naval Reserve and, after boot camp at Naval Station Great Lakes, achieved the rank of Petty Officer Third Class. But following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, Cunningham transferred to the Army Reserve and, in 2002, received a commission as a First Lieutenant in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps.
First Lieutenant Cunningham served his first active duty tour with XVIII Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg as a Special Assistant United States Attorney in the Office of the Staff Judge Advocate. At Fort Bragg, he adjudicated hundreds of misdemeanor cases and numerous felony cases.
“A brilliant performance by one of the finest officers I have encountered in my 15 years of service. Displaying exceptional maturity and grace under pressure, 1LT Cunningham was the glue that held the office together during a time of significant transition. As a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney (SAUSA), Cal expertly prosecuted more felony cases than any other attorney in the office, procuring multiple indictments from the Grand Jury, and seeing many more cases through to sentencing.” –Officer Evaluation, Major, 2005
Following his first tour, Cunningham came off active duty and served as an administrative and contract law officer at Fort Jackson. Cunningham was promoted to Captain in 2006 and graduated the Basic Airborne Course at Fort Benning.
In part for this work, Cunningham received the Bronze Star Medal and the General Douglas MacArthur Leadership Award, one of the Army’s top awards for leadership.
In July 2011, Cunningham deployed to the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force – Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom where he established the position of Deputy Command Judge Advocate.
“Cunningham is in the top 5% of Captains with whom I’ve served… Cal provided critical legal support to a joint task force of over 5500 personnel from 5 countries…that conducted 45 operations. In support of these operations, he reviewed 108 Level-I direct action joint contingency operations plans, and provided guidance on complex Rule of Law issues.” – Officer Evaluation, Major, 2011
Cunningham was promoted to Major in May 2012, and in 2013 he transferred to the 134th Legal Operational Detachment where he served as a Team Leader.
In 2016, Cunningham transferred to the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School where until recently he served as the Deputy Staff Judge Advocate (DIMA) and helped train special operations forces in various phases of their curricula and professional development.
“With exceptional creativity and educational insight, MAJ Cunningham rewrote and fully developed a new LOAC [Law of Armed Conflict] training brief for use in all USAJFKSWCS professional training courses, using modern vignettes and a scenario based training methodology. .… Cal served with a remarkable, self-sacrificing attitude that automatically engendered trust among every commander and staff officer he worked with. Showing incredible flexibility, he easily pivoted between fiscal law issues, environmental law matters, and sexual harassment cases, never missing a beat.” – Officer Evaluation, Lieutenant Colonel, 2017
“MAJ Cunningham is …the best JAG Major I’ve worked with in 29 years of service. Physically fit and mentally tough, Cal is an officer and attorney with both superior skill and intellect, who will benefit the Army, at all levels, long into the future.” – Officer Evaluation, Colonel, YEAR
In 2020, Cunningham continues to serve in the rank of Lieutenant Colonel as a Team Chief with an Army Reserve unit that trains one weekend a month.
Bronze Star Medal
Meritorious Service Medal with Two Oak Leaf Clusters
Army Commendation Medal with Three Oak Leaf Clusters
Joint Service Achievement Medal
Army Achievement Medal
Army Reserve Components Achievement Medal with Four Oak Leaf Clusters
National Defense Service Medal with One Star
Afghanistan Campaign Medal with One Campaign Star
Iraq Campaign Medal with Two Campaign Stars
Global War On Terrorism Service Medal
Armed Forces Reserve Medal with ‘M’ Device, Third Award
Army Service Ribbon
Army Overseas Service Ribbon, Second Award
Army Reserve Component Overseas Training Ribbon
NATO Afghanistan Service Medal
General Douglas MacArthur Leadership Award