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Our Team

Our Founders

The founders of Creative Drill Sergeants, Mitch Caviness and Gina Ruggiero are both are 100% disabled Veterans with PTSD, as well as multitudes of service-connected physical injuries and limitations. “We use Expressive Arts to rise above circumstantial adversities to find joy in producing something beautiful as artists. Expression through the arts reignites a passion to embrace the moment, the here and now, as it is all we truly get in life. We live each moment to the fullest through arts expression and want to pass along the blessing of expression through the arts to our veteran families.”

Mitchell Caviness

Former President and Co-founder

As a legally blind 100% disabled Army Veteran his disability did not hinder his creative talent. His artwork is a spiritual expression released in wood, wire, stone and mixed medium sculptures. “God blessed me with talent and I want to share that blessing with others”. 

Graduate of ASU with Masters in Art Ed and Bachelors in Fine Art. Graduate of NJCSU with a Bachelors in Studio Arts and Ottawa UniversitY. AZ State Certified Teacher in Art History.

He is a former 101st Airborne Ranger. While in the military, he sustained several injuries that have left him 100% disabled and legally blind. Mitch holds a bachelor’s degree in fine art and art history from the University of New Jersey and a second Bachelor’s degree in Studio Art from Arizona State University. He went on to obtain a Masters in Art Education and Teacher’s Certification from Ottawa University. Mitch brings his tenacity to any engagement. He works as a teacher and sculptor.

Gina Ruggiero

President and Co-founder

She is an Artist, Vocalist, and Musician. 100% disabled veteran with TBI, PTSD and MST. “My personal mission is to help other veterans overcome disability and mental health adversities through expressive arts to remain active, productive and hopeful in life”. 

Associate Degree focusing on Art and Art History, but am mostly a self-taught artist and CPD accredited in Introductory Expressive Arts Therapy. Shared Hope International Ambassador.

She is an Expressive Arts Instructor who is a 100% disabled veteran with TBI, PTSD, and MST. “My personal mission is to help other veterans Live in Solutions and Not Die in Problems to overcome disability adversities through expressive arts to remain active, productive and hopeful in life.” She graduated North Idaho College with an Associates of Science and an emphasis in Art and Art History. She is a mixed media and graphic artist, a vocalist, and musician with a CPD accreditation in Introductory Expressive Arts Therapy. She serves as a Shared Hope International Ambassador and an American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Ambassador. She was a Community Forestry Commissioner for the City of Hayden, Idaho for over 10 years and her community service was award-winning.

Our Board Members

Steven Doty

Chairman Board of Directors

Jane Garcia

She served in the US Army for ten years. After exiting from military service, she became a science educator working at different levels of the k-12 school system. She is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in Psychology with an emphasis in Cognition and Instruction. Her areas of research interest are women veterans’ issues and education.

Life’s Motto: Do the right thing. Do the best you can. Respect the people around you.

Steve Wargo

Steve Wargo owns and runs Arizona based SWAT HD Productions. He works as a Producer, Director and Director of Photography. SWAT is an acronym for Steve Wargo and Team

He is producing a feature film titled Poison Sky with cast members Kevin Sorbo, Glenn Plummer, Trisha Mann-Grant, Arlene Newman-Van Asperen, Tyler Galant and Greg Joseph. Poison Sky is a docudrama that is being shot in three states over a three year timetable. Locations have included Merced, California with a C-130 military cargo plane and a 92′ Luxury Yacht in San Diego Harbor.

Future projects include the hilarious comedy “Trailer Trash”, a crime thriller, “DFA”, and a docudrama titled “Seasons of Night”.

After working as an extra in Used Cars (1979), The Gauntlet (1980) and Cloud Dancer (1980), Wargo became interested in the craft of filmmaking.

Steve Wargo was hired to shoot “Psycho Manor” for Matt Deitch in November 2002 and he shot the action packed, stunt laced western, “The Last Gunfighter” for director Russell Clay in 2003.

In 2004, as Director Tony Topaz neared release of Blood Money, he decided to do a re-shoot of 2 scenes of the film. He opted that he would shoot HD instead of 35mm film and chose Wargo to complete the task. After seeing the quality of the new scenes,he contracted with Wargo to re-shoot over 50% of the movie in HD.

In 2005, he was hired as Director of Photography and Cinematographer for The Hoax, starring Lyn Pyrce, Kathleen Benner and Gene Gansel which is now available on NetFlix. Also in 2005, he was hired in the same capacity on The Controller which went on the STARZ on-demand and then into distribution.

SWAT HD was contracted to produce Romans Road for director Helen Gibson in 2012. Romans Road was chosen best film at the Cancun International Film Festival and is currently released on Amazon Prime and iTunes.

– IMDb Mini Biography 

Catherine Bennett


Our Leadership Team

Dr. Franco-Chavez

Holistic Healing Program

She is a graduate of Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Tempe, AZ. “Naturopathic Medicine is a unique profession that encompasses treating the patient as an individual while looking toward the entire body for understanding patient health, not just treating the signs and symptoms that a disease may display. While treating the actual cause of illness and patient concern, the entire organism is regarded, this, in turn, minimizes the occurrence of symptoms and healing of the body can take place. Naturopathic physicians emphasize prevention and natural approaches using combined integrative therapies that encompass traditional allopathic medical science models and physiologic understandings while implementing the naturopathic modalities, which include: acupuncture, traditional Chinese medicine, physical medicine, nutrition, hydrotherapy, homeopathy, botanical medicine, mind-body therapy and minor surgery. We use the science behind natural therapeutics with regard to clinical based research design. We are experts in understanding the philosophy of integrative medicine as well as cultivate the practice of diagnosing to not only treat but prevent illness.”

Lyle Dillie

Bloodquartz Studios

He is an Interdisciplinary Artist, Iraqi War Veteran, proud husband, and also the father of three boys. Lyle is currently an adjunct media arts professor at Estrella Mountain Community College teaching Adobe Software in Avondale, AZ. He graduated Summa Cum Laude with an Interdisciplinary Arts Degree at Arizona State University.
Dajarae Reese, Lady Been Cold

Dajarae Reese

Vice President / Workforce Development Director and Performance Mentor

Dajarae is the Director of The Workforce Training and Development Program and a Lead mentorin our Performing Arts program. 

She oversees, supervises and leads the Employer Engagement and Career Services of the Apprenticeship Department. She directs, develops, implements and oversees strategic systems and processes related to our program.  She develops and oversees relationships with external partners and businesses to ensure work based learning, grants, division initiatives in the operational area and that all personnel and apprentices have placement in services aligned with the programs goals and objectives.


” I promise to support our community and each individuals talents and commitments in our work-based learning program to serve business throughout the industry with excellence.”


Dajarae is the Founder of R & R Recruiting which is a film, media and entertainment recruiting and staffing agency and the Sales Director for a Large OTT platform “Connect To Your City”, both based in Phoenix, Arizona. She has been recognized nationally within the National Clean Energy Business magazines for reaching higher than expected sales goals, superb performance and training skills within B2B sales, B2C sales, Solar sales, Roofing sales, direct Sales and customer service roles. 


Dajarae is also known as 

“Lady Been Cold”, a true Entrepreneur and Performing Artist. She has a deep passion for creating new business opportunities for others and leads as a bi-racial woman in the performing arts. Dajarae is from Arizona, comes from a large talented family including 13 siblings and has 7 sons of her own.

As a young girl, Dajarae also took to having a solid interest in story telling and loves to hear herself rhyme and sing into a microphone. At the age of 5 she was a lead soprano in her church choir. By the age of 18 years old she was writing her own music. By the time she turned 21 years old, Dajarae was entertaining groups of 500 people consistently at holiday concerts. Dajarae is a dream chaser and has had music published and played in movies, tv series and on other streaming platforms such as HBO Max, Starz, Netflix, and YouTube, she has hosted party events, hosting on Radio Stations and has been an overall shining star and growing within her crafts 

“I believe that all things are possible we just need a little bit of faith.”

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