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Our Team

Vigilant Torch prides itself on having an internal team that is dedicated to its mission through strategic planning, fiscal responsibility, and an overall passion for creating lasting impact within the Special Operations community.  Our ethos is to work smarter, not harder, and with integrity and honor while being good stewards of our members' and donors’ funds.

BOARD OF DIRECTORS


Michael K. Nagata

Chairman of the Board

Michael K. Nagata retired from the US Army in 2019 after 38 years of Active Duty, with 34 years in US Special Operations.  His final assignment was Director of Strategic Operational Planning for the National Counterterrorism Center.  He is today a Strategic Advisor & Senior Vice President for CACI International, and owns Hanada Bridge LLC, a national security consulting firm.

A native of Virginia, he graduated from Georgia State University, and first enlisted in the US Army as an Infantry Private, later receiving his Commission as an Infantry Officer in 1982 from the US Army Officer Candidate School. He served in the 2nd Infantry Division in Korea before volunteering for Army Special Forces in 1984.  Assigned to the 1st Special Forces Group, he served in both 1st and 2nd Battalions.  In 1990, he was selected for a Special Mission Unit, and deployed extensively over several assignments there on contingency and combat operations.

From 1999 to 2000, he commanded the Army’s Special Forces Qualification Course.  In 2000, he returned to a Special Mission Unit as a Squadron Commander, and was involved in the initial combat deployments after the 9/11 attacks. After graduating from the National War College in 2003, he served in the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence.  From 2005 to 2008, as a Special Mission Unit commander, he led multiple Joint SOF task forces across more than a dozen countries in Africa, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia. He then served within the US Intelligence Community in Washington D.C. as a Military Deputy for Counterterrorism until 2009.  He then deployed again until late 2011 to Pakistan as the Deputy Chief, Office of the Defense Representative at the US Embassy.  Upon returning to the US, he served on the Joint Staff as the Deputy Director for Special Operations and Counterterrorism until 2013.

From 2013 to 2015 he commanded US Special Operations Command-Central, was responsible for Special Operations across the Central Command, and was heavily involved in the first two years of combat against the Islamic State. LTG (R) Nagata is a graduate of the Infantry Officer Basic and Advanced Courses, the Special Forces Qualification Course, the United States Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and the National War College in Washington D.C.

He and his wife Barbara have five children, and one granddaughter, who are the lights of their lives.


Brian Gellman

Executive Director and Scholarship Chairman

Brian Gellman retired from the military in 2020 after nearly 30 years of combined service. Brian enlisted at 17 as a medic in the Army Reserves and was later commissioned as a Military Intelligence officer with a branch detail in the Infantry.

Brian first served in the Special Operations community as a member of 5th Special Forces Group which led to other select SOF assignments throughout the community to include the Joint Staff, Deputy Directorate for Special Operations. Brian completed his career as the G2 of the US Army John. F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School.

Post-military, Brian is keeping close ties to the community by working as an instructor of highly specialized skills in the Joint SOF and Intelligence communities. In addition, he also serves as an adjunct professor for Angelo State University teaching intelligence analysis and critical thinking.

Brian assumed the role of Chairman of the Vigilant Torch Scholarship Committee in December 2021 in an effort to give back to a community that he still considers his family.  In January 2023, he was appointed Executive Director.


David Paul

Vice Chairman, Vigilant Torch Association

Dave Paul is a retired Command Sergeant Major with 30 years of service in Army Special Operations. Joining the Army in 1989, Dave began his military career with the 75th Ranger Regiment and then served in other select assignments within the Special Operations community. As a senior leader, he witnessed firsthand the positive impact Vigilant Torch had on both the men and women of Special Operations and their families. Dave was honored to join the Vigilant Torch board in 2020.

Dave holds a Bachelor of Science in Organizational Leadership from the University of Charleston West Virginia and currently resides in Montana with his wife and two daughters.


Mike Buggs

Vice Chairman, Vigilant Torch Foundation

Mike Buggs served 21 years in the United States Army, 7 years in Military Intelligence and 14 years in Special Forces.   His tours of duty include 2nd Infantry Division (Korea), 3rd Armored Division (Germany), 82nd Airborne Division, 7th Special Forces Group (two tours-ODA 741/ODB720), Special Operations Command Europe (Germany) and a Special Mission Unit in Northern Virginia/Maryland.  He retired in 2001 as a Special Forces Company Sergeant Major.  Mike also worked for Chenega Corporation, an Alaska Native owned corporation which is a proud and prominent supporter of Vigilant Torch, for 21 years.  On 30SEP22, he retired from Chenega Corporation from his final position as Sr VP Business Operations/Chief Operating Officer for the Military Intelligence and Operations Support business unit, which consists of over 20 companies, over 1,700 personnel and over $400M annual revenue.  He now owns his own consulting company providing business operations support: Buggs Consulting, LLC.  Mike has been on the board of Vigilant Torch and a leading member of the scholarship committee since 2017 and looks forward to serving Vigilant Torch for many more years.

Mike earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting from the University of the State of New York Regents and a Master’s Degree in Human Relations from the University of Oklahoma.  He has been married to his beautiful wife Maria for 33 years (without whom he could not have done any of the above) and has two adult children, Cathy and Michael and one grandson, Wayne.


Vicki Grane

Treasurer

Vicki Grane has over 15 years of experience working as an Army civilian for the Special Operations community.  She leads a talented and dedicated team that provides financial advice and support to meet unique mission requirements.  Before joining the Special Operations community, Vicki served in various positions developing financial policies and advising military leaders.  Prior to government service, Vicki worked for Morningstar Inc. and Morgan Stanley.

Vicki holds a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and an MBA with concentration in Finance from Drexel University. She is married to LTC (R) Brad Grane and they have two children.  In January 2023, Vicki was appointed Vigilant Torch Treasurer.


Tom Sullivan

Development Chairman

Tom Sullivan joined the Vigilant Torch board in 2010 as one of our civilian board members and then served as the Executive Director from 2015 to 2023. Tom has over thirty years of experience in senior leadership roles leading various sales, business development, operations, finance, and M&A teams across the technology and healthcare fields.

Tom has an undergraduate degree from the University of Notre Dame and an MBA in finance from DePaul University. Tom is passionate about supporting Vigilant Torch and its military families.


Christie Blake

Membership Chairperson

Christie Blake retired from the U.S. Army in 2012, just a few months shy of 22 years of service. She started her military journey straight out of high school, as a Logistician, but changed gears in 1994 to become a Signals Intelligence Analyst. She served in a wide variety of assignments throughout her career, but was honored to spend 14 years inside the Special Operations community. Her career culminated as a SGM promotable inside a Special Mission Unit, where she made the difficult decision to retire in order to focus on her family. Christie was honored to join the Vigilant Torch Board in 2020. 

Christie holds an Associates of Science in Math & Science from Jefferson Community College in New York, a Bachelors of Arts in Sociology from Saint Leo University in Florida, and a Master of Science in Information Assurance & Cyber Defense from Eastern Michigan University. She currently spends much of her time raising her family, volunteering, and is self-employed as an Independent Contractor supporting various organizations. She is married to CSM(R) David J. Blake and they have three children. They reside in Michigan. 




Jennifer Vydareny

Secretary

Jennifer Vydareny holds a Bachelor's degree in Business Administration and is no stranger to military life or the Special Operations Community. She is the spouse of Vigilant Torch member, LTC(R) Todd Vydareny. Currently, she is Director of Operations for an angel investment group and transition coach. Jennifer is passionate about volunteering. She serves as a Board Member of her local youth lacrosse organization and fills needs at her church and community schools. By far, her greatest achievement has been raising their two daughters.


John “JC” Campagna

Director-at-Large

John “JC” Campagna retired from the United States Army where he served on a variety of assignments largely focused in the areas of Intelligence and Special Operations. During his tenure in Special Operations, JC served as an operator, team leader, and the Force Modernization officer where he defined and developed a strategy to bring new technologies and capabilities to its arsenal.

JC is currently the President of Chenega Corporation’s Military, Intelligence and Operations Support (MIOS) Strategic Business Unit (SBU), a 1,800-personnel, $300M+ organization focused on the U.S. Federal Defense and Intelligence Community market segments.


Charlie Cleveland

Director-at-Large

Charlie Cleveland is a retired Army Major General with over 34 years of experience in the Army, Joint Special Operations, and in the Intelligence Community.  He commanded operational units at every level of his career, served in multiple war zones and foreign posts, and held strategic positions directly supporting Intelligence Community and Defense leadership.  

Throughout his career, Charlie served within the Joint Special Operations Command, four National Intelligence Agencies, and the Offices of the Secretary of Defense and the Director of National Intelligence.  But a singular highlight was serving as a member of a Special Mission Unit for 10 years where he commanded at the Detachment, Troop, and Squadron level.  Charlie’s final role while on active duty was as the Director of Operations and Military Deputy Director of the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency where he provided leadership, oversight, and management of the Agency's worldwide collection and analysis operations.

Charlie holds a BA in Political Science from Furman University.  He and his family reside in Washington DC.  


Charlie Hamilton

Director-at-Large

Charlie (Sharlene) Hamilton retired from the U.S. Army with close to 26 years of service. She began her career right out of high school as an Intelligence Analyst. She served in a variety of units starting with the 82nd ABN, various MI units, and culminating with SOF units and retiring as a CW4. She continues to serve in a civilian capacity as the Sensitive Activities Oversight Lead within Headquarters, Department of the Army. Charlie is also the owner and lead therapist at Cardinal Family Counseling, PLLC, providing mental health care to her community.

She received her education via many schools during her journey. Her degrees culminated with an Associate Degree in Intelligence Operations from Cochise College, a Bachelor of Science degree in Management Information Systems from National American University, and a Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Argosy University. She is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), National Certified Counselor (NCC), and a Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselor (CCMHC).

She currently spends her time working in her business, serving others through her government service and volunteer time, spending time with her family, and refurbishing her future retirement home. She is married to MSG(R) Mark Hamilton and has three adult children.


Tyrone Harvey

Director-at-Large

Tyrone is a Partner at Ernst & Young (EY) in the Audit Practice.

From North Carolina, Tyrone grew up around the Military as his Father made a career in the United States Marine Corps and retired after 20 years of service.

Academically, Tyrone received a B.A. in Economics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a M.S. in Accountancy from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. He is a licensed CPA in Virginia and Georgia and a member of the AICPA.

After completing his studies, Tyrone began his career at EY in Atlanta, GA where he spent 11 years serving a mix of large publicly traded and privately-owned entities before moving to the DC area, where he currently resides. Now, he primarily focuses on and supports financial statement audits in the Department of Defense. Tyrone has extensive experience with large organizations, multilocation coordination, business combinations, divestitures, debt and equity transactions, accounting for income taxes, strategic planning, and overall risk management.

Tyrone participates in the community with the Special Olympics – DC and is also the Executive Sponsor for EY’s Corporate Social Responsibility Task Force in the Greater Washington, DC area.


Joe Weirsky

Director-at-Large


Joe retired from the United States Marine Corps after dedicating 26 years to active duty service. His career commenced with a brief assignment to Marine Barrack Duty, followed by seven years in Marine Reconnaissance. Subsequently, Joe spent the next 15 years serving within the Special Operation Command, ultimately retiring as a Master Gunnery Sergeant. Prior to joining Vigilant Torch, Joe volunteered for a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting the Special Operations community.



Staff

Mary Benbow Cisowski

Director of Development and Strategic Communications

Specializing in communications, membership management, development, and operations, Mary has spent over twenty years in the nonprofit sector.  Her passion for nonprofit work was ignited during her tenure at the George C. Marshall Foundation, where she discovered her love for serving military-connected organizations.

She is a former Deputy Director of Development & Membership for the National Military Family Association (NMFA) and has also served in many volunteer roles including the Board of Directors for the Tidewater Military Family Services Council and as the Command Team Advisor for US Marine Forces Command.  During a career break to be home with her children, Mary was enlisted by NMFA to conduct a six-month research project to study what resources are available for families of transitioning servicemembers and the quality of those resources.  She presented her findings during a roundtable of representatives from the US Department of Defense, the US Department of Labor, and numerous national military organizations.  Mary also provided direct support to families and commands while serving as a training coordinator for Marine Corps Community Services.

Mary holds professional memberships in the American Society of Association Executives and the Association of Fundraising Professionals.  As the spouse of a retired Marine and with a brother who is also a retired Marine, she has an unwavering commitment to supporting service members and their families.



Jillian Rowe

Mental Health Director

Jillian is a seasoned expert in mental health support within the special operations community, serving as Vigilant Torch's lead consultant for designing, building, and implementing a comprehensive mental health program for our members and their families.

Jillian earned her Master of Social Work from the University of Southern California. She completed her clinical training at Fort Belvoir, where she worked with service members and veterans with a wide range of mental health concerns. Jillian has over ten years of experience providing therapeutic services to individuals, couples, and families within the military and SOF communities. She served as a Behavioral Health Officer in the United States Army and was embedded with multiple special operations forces units.

Jillian is actively involved in the military and veteran communities and frequently provides training and consultation to other mental health professionals on best practices for working with military and veteran populations.




OUR FAMILY. OUR MISSION. We provide support to active and former members of our select Special Operations community who may or may not be fully served by other military support organizations. To do this, we provide mental health support, emergency relief funds, family maintenance and resilience assistance, and scholarships.

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Vigilant Torch Association

440 Monticello Ave, Ste 1802

PMB 45797

Norfolk VA 23510-2670