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Trump eyes former flight surgeon Mark Green as next Army secretary

March 15, 2017 (Photo Credit: Erik Schelzig/AP)
WASHINGTON — Former Army flight surgeon and Tennessee state Sen. Mark Green is the leading pick to take over as President Donald Trump's Army Secretary, according to sources close to the process.

Green, best known as the special operations soldier who interviewed former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein after his capture by American forces in 2003, would be the second person nominated by Trump for the post. Last month, billionaire veteran Vincent Viola dropped out of the confirmation process citing numerous conflicts of interest with his family businesses.

Green is scheduled to travel with Trump in Nashville, Tennessee, Wednesday as the president visits local historical sites and holds a campaign-style rally to discuss current events with supporters. Sources could not say whether an announcement of a new Army secretary will take place at the rally. 

If confirmed, the 1986 West Point graduate will make the jump from local politics to the highest levels of military planning, overseeing Trump’s promised build-up of Army end-strength and equipment modernization.

Green was elected to state office in 2012 and for the last seven years has served as founder and CEO of Align MD, an emergency department staffing company. The firm operates in 30 hospitals in six states.

He’s also active in a pair of military focused charities — Soldiers and Families Embraced and Reboot for Recovery — as well as the middle Tennessee chapter of the Boy Scouts of America
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Green spent 20 years in the active-duty Army, including a deployment to Iraq with the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment. In December 2003, he was part of the team that captured the deposed Iraqi president.

Hussein spoke at length to Green following his capture, and the soldier recounted the unusual interrogation in his book, “A Night with Saddam,” years later.

“The former Iraqi dictator poured forth on everything from his earliest days to his twisted rationale for invading Iran and Kuwait,” Green recalled in a 2013 essay on the 10-year anniversary of the event.

“At one point, he told me he had once dreamed of becoming a doctor (after self treating a bullet wound). The experience had attracted him to medicine, but, he said, ‘politics had a stronger pull on my heart.’”


Green, an Army Ranger who holds a medical degree from Wright State University and a master’s certificate in information systems from the University of Southern California, also served as a scout platoon leader, battalion personnel officer and airborne rifle company commander during his military career.

White House officials are hoping for a smoother confirmation process for the next Army secretary pick than other recent military nominees have experienced. 

Just weeks after Viola’s withdrawal from the confirmation process, Trump’s pick to become Navy secretary — financier Philip Bilden — also dropped out of consideration citing the same business conflicts.

Trump’s pick for Air Force secretary, former New Mexico Rep. Heather Wilson, has not yet had a confirmation hearing scheduled in the Senate. On Monday, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis withdrew retired senior diplomat Anne Patterson from consideration for the Pentagon's top policy job after rumors of a potential Senate fight. 


Several lawmakers have questioned the White House’s slow pace on military nominations, noting that critical budget and strategic decisions in the coming months will likely be made by interim department heads instead of new permanent appointees. 

Even if a new Army secretary nominee is announced this week, the confirmation process is likely to take until at least late April to finalize, given the extensive background checks to be conducted by the Pentagon and Senate.
  
Leo Shane III covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He can be reached at lshane@militarytimes.com.
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