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Leading Under Fire: Mark Michel’s Journey from Afghanistan To Building Railroads, Refineries, and Pipelines

Leading Under Fire: Mark Michel's Journey from Afghanistan To Building Railroads, Refineries, and Pipelines

In this riveting episode of the “Entrepreneurs, Executives, & Eccentrics” podcast, host Scott Turman sits down with Mark Michel, a distinguished Navy veteran and successful entrepreneur. Michel’s story is one of resilience, leadership, and adaptability, offering listeners a deep dive into his extraordinary journey from the battlefields of Afghanistan to leading high-stakes infrastructure projects.

From Orlando to Afghanistan: A Legacy of Military Service

Born and raised in Orlando, Florida, Mark Michel grew up in a middle-class military family. His father served in the army throughout his childhood, and three of his four grandparents were World War II veterans. Michel’s grandmother, a nurse in General Patton’s army, met his grandfather at a USO cantina in Europe, a romantic encounter straight out of a classic WWII film. This rich heritage of service set the stage for Michel’s own 22-year Navy career.

Thriving in Volatile Environments

Michel’s Navy career is marked by significant deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan. He served as the Navy’s representative to the National Security Council during the Obama administration, where he focused on targeting high-value individuals and managing human intelligence networks (HUMINT). His vivid recounting of experiences in war zones—dodging explosions, managing tactical complexities, and witnessing Afghanistan’s surreal beauty amidst chaos—provides listeners with a profound understanding of the challenges and perils of military service.

Transitioning from Military to Business Leadership

The transition from military to corporate life is no small feat, but Michel has navigated it with remarkable success. Drawing parallels between his military and entrepreneurial experiences, he emphasizes the importance of resilience, audacity, and adaptability in leadership. These traits, honed in the high-pressure environment of military operations, have proven invaluable in his role as an entrepreneur and infrastructure developer.

Insights into Global Demographic and Economic Shifts

In this episode, Michel also explores global demographic trends, particularly focusing on the economic implications of China’s one-child policy. He discusses the shrinking workforce in China and its impact on manufacturing and economic power, contrasting it with the demographic sustainability achieved through immigration in countries like the U.S. and Canada.

Pioneering Infrastructure Projects

As the head of his company, Michel leads audacious projects in railroads, terminals, pipelines, and power systems. He shares insights into a unique project involving the transport of waxy crude oil, highlighting the innovation and safety considerations in logistics. Michel’s strategic approach, combining military-honed leadership skills with a focus on environmental safety and demographic trends, positions his company at the forefront of contemporary global challenges.

Balancing Professional and Personal Life

Michel underscores the importance of work-life balance, advocating for his team to attend personal events while maintaining a strong dedication to their professional responsibilities. This philosophy reflects his belief in the critical balance between personal well-being and professional success.

Connect with Mark Michel and Scott Turman

Mark Michel

Scott Turman

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Join us for an enlightening conversation that offers a rare glimpse into the life of a Navy veteran turned successful entrepreneur, and gain valuable insights into leadership, resilience, and the ever-evolving global landscape.


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