CAPT McLaughlin graduated from Aviation Officer Candidate School as the class Distinguished Naval Graduate and proceeded to Primary flight training in Corpus Christi, Texas. Upon completion of primary flight training he received a jet slot and subsequent training in Kingsville, Texas. Following Intermediate and advanced jet training, CAPT McLaughlin reported to the F/A-18 Fleet Replacement Squadron at Marine Corps Aviation Station El Toro, California.
In December 1994, CAPT McLaughlin was assigned to the BLUE DIAMONDS of VFA-146, Naval Air Station Lemoore, California, where he served as Line Division, Quality Assurance, Schedules, Communications, Landing Signals, and Air-to-Air Weapons Training Officer. During his tenure he made two deployments aboard the USS NIMITZ (CVN 68) in support of Operation SOUTHERN WATCH.
In December 1997, CAPT McLaughlin was assigned to Naval Air Station Fallon, Nevada as an instructor at Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center and Navy Fighter Weapons School (TOPGUN). While assigned, CAPT McLaughlin served as the Maintenance Officer and the Fleet Training Officer.
In February 2001, CAPT McLaughlin reported to the VIGILANTES of VFA-151 as the Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor and Training Officer. During this tour, he deployed aboard the USS CONSTELLATION (CV 64) in support of Operation SOUTHERN WATCH. In June 2002, CAPT McLaughlin was selected as a Washington DC Intern Fellow where he received a Master of Arts in Organizational Management from George Washington University.
CAPT McLaughlin reported for his Department Head tour with the MIGHTY SHRIKES of VFA-94 in November 2004. During his tour, he served as the Safety, Maintenance, and Operations Officer, and deployed aboard USS NIMITZ (CVN 68) in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM.
In November of 2006 Captain McLaughlin reported to United States Northern Command, Colorado Springs, Colorado as the Organizational Policy Officer to the J-5 Plans and Policy directorate. In April 2010, he reported to the TOPHATTERS of VFA-14 for duties as Executive Officer and assumed command in July 2011. CAPT McLaughlin led the squadron on a combat deployment in support of Operations NEW DAWN and ENDURING FREEDOM aboard the USS JOHN C STENNIS (CVN 74)