Why Vets Have the Skills it Takes to be Successful Entrepreneurs: Our Interview with Senator Mark Green

The Bunker Nashville Podcast, hosted by Blake Hogan, a marine veteran and co-founder of Bunker Labs Nashville, sits down with veteran entrepreneurs and executives all over Tennessee.

The most recent episode featured an army veteran, entrepreneur, executive and now Senator, Mark Green.  In this episode, Senator Green talked about how he developed Align MD and shared with us two main skills he learned along the way that has made his business thrive: Culture and Leadership.  And how starting off with a “we before me” culture has set the path for success.

So how did Mark get involved with the Army?

Senator Green explains that he didn’t have a whole lot of options; in fact, he would need some sort of scholarship in order to even go to college.  After talking with his guidance counselor, it was his father’s doubts that he would be able to be accepted into West Point Academy that fueled his ambition to do just that. A short time after, Mark was accepted into West Point Academy, where he raised his right hand, and eventually graduated in the class of ‘86.

“That’s one sure fire way to get any military or future military person to put their name on the line is to tell them they can’t,” explains Senator Green.

Blake agrees with Mark saying, “What people don’t understand is that most of the decision making of a soldier is done in the grey area and you need to be very entrepreneurial. Rarely do you have the time, resources, money that you need to accomplish a given task.”

When asked about entrepreneurial experiences Senator Green had while on active duty, he explains that as a Commander he had to be quite inventive to create real life battlefield experiences to train younger soldiers. Then, when he was commanding in Recruiting Command, he was able to listen to CEOs of Fortune 100 companies talk about their companies’ strategic plans. That’s where he learned how to think strategically from a business perspective as opposed to a military perspective.

“The similarities are there and eventually when I got out of the military I just started applying those to my company and we had tremendous success.”

Mark Green was an infantry officer when his father had a serious medical event occur, so serious that a surgeon essentially saved his life.  This was before the War on Terror, a time when we were at peace.  The opportunity to use the skills of an infantry commander wasn’t looking promising at this time, and Mark was infatuated that there were surgeons saving people’s lives everyday.  So, he went to the Army and said “I want to do what that guy’s doing”, and he was sent to med school.

Blake interrupts kindly to say, “Wow, yeah and you didn’t just become a doctor in the Army, you went to serve with one of the most elite outfits in the entire Military.”


After 9/11, Mark Green got a call to interview to become the flight sergeant for the 160th SOAR (Special Operations Aviation Regiment), also known as the Night Stalkers.

“Being apart of 160th, I got to do a lot of those covert operations during the early parts of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom. Of course in Iraq we were looking for WMD and we were looking for Saddam Hussein. [We] caught him on December the 12th and then we announced it on the 13th.. It was surreal. “

“Just being in that room. As a human kind we never really captured a totalitarian dictator like that. I think I know what it’s like to win a Super Bowl. I really can say that cause you win one of those every year, and I was on the team who caught Saddam Hussein and of course got to interview him that night, which was just over the top.”

[Tweet “”I think I know what it’s like to win a Super Bowl, I was on the team who caught Saddam Hussein” Sen Mark Green @BunkerLabsNash”]

Now ultimately that lead to what Align MD is now.  Senator Green went from a night with Sadam Hussein to pursuing a new mission.

Mark Green started Align MD to be an Emergency Medicine Staffing company, but now they do much more. Align MD goes in and partners with the hospital to manage the emergency department. They decided that at each facility they want the doctor to feel like he’s running his business. So that makes him pick up a piece of trash off the floor because he owns it, and that became their motto.

“Our number one objective was to develop leaders.  I think that’s been the secret to success and of course creating a culture that is ‘we before me.’ When I went in to report in to the commander of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, at that point in my life I had gone to West Point, gotten a degree in economics. I had been through ranger school, qualified and got a ranger tab. I had commanded in the 82nd airborne division, at that point, gone to medical school, graduated in the top of my class. I had a masters in information systems from the University of Southern California, graduated from one of the top residencies in the country, and I wondered in the back of my head if I was good enough to be there. And I ask businesses all the time, when I give talks on culture, how many people come to your office everyday wondering if they’re good enough to be on your team? But that’s the power of an elite culture. And when we created that at Align MD, people wanted to be on the team. And so they worked really hard to stay on the team. Our turnover was almost zero. We created this place where everybody wanted to work, and our goal, one of our goals, was to have a physician never look at the schedule wondering who he was or who she was working with because they always knew everybody on the team was going to pull their weight.”.

Mark’s advice to young veteran entrepreneurs just starting out?

“You know, I think the things that prepare us well in the military, leading people, casting a vision, and having people go toward that vision, you don’t have to work on that stuff. Right? But understanding sources of capital and where you can access capital, where you can access marketing, those are the two things.  if I were giving a veteran a recommendation on what to look at hard before they open a business, I’d say figure those two things out. “

So what’s Mark Green’s next mission?  Well, from a business standpoint, he is continuing to grow his company. It’s all about putting the target on the wall and shooting for it.  Politically, he’s enjoying working in the Tennessee State Senate. He’s going to continue to serve in the Senate and see the opportunities as they arise there.

Mark’s words for the Bunker:

“I’m really proud of the help that you’re giving veterans to start their businesses because I will tell you that our success came from the hard work, the loyalty, and most of the leaders of our company when we started it were military guys. Failure is not an option. That was something that we said a lot when we started the company. And at the tough times when we were checking the lock box every night to make sure we could make payroll, failure was not an option.”

Thank you Senator Mark Green for being a part of the Bunker Labs Nashville Podcast and for being a part of the Nashville Business Journal series on veteran leaders and veteran entrepreneurs. Listen to the full interview here:

You can reach out to us on Twitter at @Entrecenter or @BunkerLabsNash or simply shoot us a note, Nashville@BunkerLabs.org.

Come out and join us December 5th at the Owen School at Vanderbilt, for the Bunker Labs Mess Night where we will award the Veteran Entrepreneur of the Year. Nominate a Veteran Business Leader here.

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