Marine general taking steps to return to full duty as commandant

by Vern Evans

Gen. Eric Smith is taking steps to return to full duty as commandant of the Marine Corps, about four months after being sidelined due to a heart attack, according to defense officials.

Smith quietly returned to the Pentagon on one occasion a few weeks ago, and was again in the building for a few hours on Friday.

Officials said he has been listening in on meetings in recent weeks and getting updates in order to be prepared when he eventually returns to full duty as commandant.

They said that return could happen in the coming weeks. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss plans not yet made public.

On Oct. 29, 2023, Smith suffered cardiac arrest near his home at Marine Barracks Washington and was hospitalized. He underwent successful surgery in early January to repair a bicuspid aortic valve in his heart, which was the cause of his cardiac arrest.

At that time, the Marine Corps said he “will return to full duty status as Commandant.”

The assistant commandant, Gen. Christopher Mahoney, has been serving as the acting head of the Marine Corps since Smith’s hospitalization. He will continue to do so until Smith returns to full duty, which officials said will be done after consultation with medical doctors.

Smith was confirmed as the new commandant on Sept. 21, 2023.

His heart attack came just two days after he’d talked publicly about the stress of having to do the Marine Corps’ top two high-level jobs for the service — commandant and assistant commandant — for several months because Mahoney’s nomination for the No. 2 job had been held up by Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville.

Tuberville had blocked hundreds of military promotions and nominations for months due to his opposition to Pentagon policy paying for troops’ travel for abortions and other reproductive care. Under pressure from lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle, Tuberville ended his holds in December 2023, allowing the Senate to confirm more than 435 nominations.

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