- July 19, 2016
Mark and Sue Hertling moved 22 times in 37 years. Twelve of those years were spent in Europe, mostly Germany. Another three Mark spent in combat in northern Iraq. Over the three decades, Mark visited every country in Europe at least once, if not numerous times. And Sue picked up her life like clockwork every two years or less, uprooting and re-nesting her family into a new home in a foreign city.
Their move to Baldwin Park in 2012 is the first one so far to stick for more than three years.
It was also the first time they got to choose where to call home in nearly four decades. The pair spent all those years bouncing around the globe following U.S. Army marching orders, never having a say in where they landed. Mark made being a soldier his career, working his way up to commander of the U.S. Army Europe and Seventh Army, where he led more than 40,000 soldiers, cared for more than 100,000 family members and partnered with the armies of 50 different countries.
When Mark retired in 2012, the couple had narrowed down their next destination to one of the 50 U.S. states.
“When we left Germany the only thing we knew for sure was that our post-Army journey was going to be in Florida,” Sue said.
It was during an interview Mark had with Florida Hospital for his first post-Army job that the Hertlings were introduced to Baldwin Park. It was a Friday afternoon when a real estate agent showed Sue around the community. On Monday, they put in an offer on their Fox Mews house. Mark hadn’t even been offered the job yet, Sue said with a laugh. But after 37 years on the move, they saw what they wanted and made it theirs.
“After this many moves and this many life experiences, we realized what’s important to us,” Sue said, “and this is it.”
“Having lived all over the world … this is now home for us,” Mark added. “This is our forever home.”
Luckily enough, Mark would get the job as senior vice president of global partnering and leadership at Florida Hospital. Three years into his work in the medical field, he’s already wrote a book on it. Last month the retired general published “Growing Physician Leaders: Empowering Doctors to Improve Our Healthcare System.” The book is based on the teachings he’s implemented at Florida Hospital combining the structured leadership style of the Army within a hospital setting.
In the Army, Mark honed his leadership skills as he climbed the ranks. He said the leadership strategy in the military is simple, trainable and proven.
“I’m asking an 18-year-old to do something that everything in their body is telling them not to do… to put their life on the line… and if you can get them to do that, you can make a nurse and a doctor get along better,” he said with a smile.
The military and healthcare, he said, are two of the only professions that deal with life and death, so management styles can crossover.
“In the military, no one can do it on their own, and there’s no such thing as an individual, you’re all a team,” he said.
His goal is to make healthcare a team sport too. The key, he said, is for the leader to identify how each member of their team needs to be led – from the nurses to the patients.
“The key in leadership is knowing your people and communicating with them in a way that gets them to do what you need them to do,” he said.
Sometimes that means getting an 18-year-old soldier to enter a warzone, other times it’s getting a patient to take their medicine on time.
He’s condensed his leadership principles into both a book and an active training program at Florida Hospital. So far 200 combined doctors and nurses have graduated the eight-month training boot camp, making the halls of the hospital a more collaborative and communicative place to provide healthcare.
“In school, doctors are taught the science of medicine, but they’re not taught the art of engaging with other people,” Mark said. “…We teach them how to engage in a team environment.”
Before he took the job at Florida Hospital, and two years before he retired from the Army, he was the man in charge of crafting a different kind of leadership plan. Mark provided the brains behind the Soldier Athlete Initiative, which transformed the way the Army trains its soldiers during boot camp. His work improving soldier nutrition and fitness levels during training attracted the attention of First Lady Michelle Obama.
The First Lady came to see the boot camp in-person, and thanked Mark for the work he was doing with the soldiers. She even hugged him goodbye.
“I told her that soldiers are only 1 percent of the population,” he said.
“You and your husband have the other 99 percent to worry about,” he remembers saying.
Two years later, once he was retired and working in the private sector, Obama reached back out.
“You’re retired now,” she said. “Can you help us with the other 99 percent?”
That’s how Mark found himself serving on the 25 member President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition with the likes of quarterback Drew Brees, ballerina Misty Copeland and celebrity-chef Rachel Ray.
The group’s goal is to engage, educate, and empower all Americans to adopt a healthy lifestyle that includes regular physical activity and good nutrition.
His term on the Council expires when President Barack Obama’s term in the Oval Office does so, he joked, the clock is ticking for him to make a difference. But there’s a chance the next incoming president could keep him on board.
Earlier this year, Mark expressed his opinion on some of the candidates running for that seat as commander and chief – and his social media accounts went wild. Not just because he was talking politics, but because he was doing so on CNN.
Since retiring from the military, Mark has contracted with the cable news network as a national security, intelligence and terrorism analyst. He goes live on air, often from his Baldwin Park home office, talking to national audiences about complex topics.
“He helps everyday people understand what’s going on across the globe,” Sue said.
“I try to bring clarity to complex issues,” Mark said.
What the audience doesn’t know, though, Sue added, is that below the suit jacket and tie, Mark’s wearing swim trunks ready to enjoy all the benefits of Florida-living once the camera cuts.
And through the window behind the camera, which is attached to his office iMac, he’s watching the Baldwin Park community go about their everyday life. Couples bike, children play, he sees everything he and his wife have come to love about their new home happening just on the other side of the glass.
“[The view]’s beautiful, but sometimes it’s distracting,” he said with a laugh, “I stare off and forget I’m on national TV.”