Warrior Games Profile: Melissa McAvoy

  • Published
  • By Alexx Pons
  • Air Force Wounded Warrior Program
Retired Lt. Col. Melissa McAvoy enlisted in the Air Force in 1993, beginning her career as an F-111 avionics journeyman, and retired in 2017 as the Deputy Director of Laboratory Operations Directorate, Air Force Technical Applications Center, Patrick Air Force Base, Florida.

During her career she deployed as an Air Liaison Officer, United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea, Horn of Africa, where she scheduled and flew reconnaissance missions with Russian and Tajik aircrews on MI-8s, as well as facilitated medical evacuation operations with Uruguayan crews flying Bell 212s.  

Additionally, she deployed as the Director of Operations, Defense Contract Management Agency Iraq/Afghanistan, where she led a team of 48 Army, Navy, Air Force, and Department of Defense civilian personnel.  

Her team performed contract administration, quality assurance, and property administration for 63 service contracts worth $8 billion, which directly supported 130,000 troops at 28 forward operating bases in Southern Iraq.

McAvoy was the MQ-1 and MQ-9 (Predator and Reaper) Program Element Monitor, SAF/AQ, Pentagon, Virginia. She was also the chief of NATO ISR Standardization and the U.S. Delegation to four NATO groups and panels.  Lastly, she was the Director of Cape Canaveral Air Station’s Eastern Range Space Launch Operations, as well as the manager of nine programs, which balanced cost, schedule and performance in the areas of missile avionics, command and control, space situational awareness, battle damage assessment, polarimetric image intelligence, electronic warfare, electrical intelligence visualization, and 3D imaging through obscurants.

The mother of two was first introduced to the Air Force Wounded Warrior (AFW2) program in 2017, after suffering from complex post-traumatic stress disorder which stemmed from a sexual assault early in her career and was exasperated by the threat of landmines, harassment and multiple assaults incurred while being the only woman (and most of the time the only American) forward deployed in Ethiopia.  

Her overall health was further complicated following a bicycle crash, which caused a mild traumatic brain injury, and took away much of her ability to function normal, day-to-day, as well as the only PTSD-coping mechanisms she had at the time.

“My family continues to be my primary motivation to move forward throughout my recovery process; including my immediate family as well as my wounded warrior family,” McAvoy said. “I want to show that when you lose your identity, your talents and are disconnected with your past, you can tap into the present to begin a new future. I needed help, hope and a push to get out of bed to start this journey—it has not been easy.

“The AFW2 program got me out of that bad spot in my life and helped me redefine my view of community and family within the Air Force,” she said. “After a significant PTSD trigger in my workplace, followed by the bike crash, I felt worthless and was unable to do my job as a deputy group commander equivalent. I went from being a confidant, successful woman, to not remembering how to get to or around my work center or my troops’ names, let alone our complex nuclear treaty monitoring mission.  

McAvoy felt useless and withdrew from her unit and Air Force family.  

“AFW2 scooped me up and brought me back life,” she said. “It rebuilt my confidence, helped me recover and helped transform me into a successful athlete. I have accepted that I may never be a physicist, engineer or Air Force leader again, but I have also realized I can still be successful and thrive with help from my Air Force family.”

The veteran Air Force leader is here representing royal blue at this year’s Warrior Games and could not be more inspired by the completion. 

“As I represent the Air Force in these games, I am in awe of all these incredible athletes,” McAvoy said. “I keep hearing of personal bests and records being beat, and it makes my heart whole; I can only tear up with pride.  

“We have all come such a long way out of our darkness, depression, and even suicidal mindsets to thriving and accomplishing amazing feats in these arenas,” she said.  “I am amazed by the support and encouragement we are receiving from Air Force senior leadership, fellow Airmen, staff, event hosts, family members and civilians who are here cheering and those afar watching as the events stream live.”

And while the AFW2 program boasts an array of services to help wounded, ill and injured Airmen recover, McAvoy gives significant credit to adaptive sports for her personal journey.

“I was introduced to archery at my first AFW2 C.A.R.E. Event; last December, I started using an Olympic recurve bow,” she said. “When I started shooting, I could not even assign scores to my arrows (10 points for bull’s eye, subtracting one point for each ring until you get to the outer ring which is worth 1 point) - it was too complicated for me. Now, six-months later, I can score each arrow and add them up; I can score a 30-arrow set (worth 300 points) ... I can add up 300 points, which means more to me than most people might realize.

“I am so proud (and fortunate) to have been selected to represent the Air Force at this year’s Warrior Games,” she said. “Thank you so much! I am excited to share my story and be one of the many faces of recovery. I hope I can be an inspiration for others across the DOD on their own road to recovery.  My teammates have been my inspiration and continue to help me along my road!”

Anyone can refer an active-duty Airman into the AFW2 program; download the worksheet by clicking the button below and submit the finalized form via email.


Refer an Airman Worksheet

AFW2 Program Mailing Address

  • ATTN: AFW2
  • 550 C St. West, Ste. 37
  • JBSA Randolph TX
  • 78150-4739