New in 2024: Eric Smith plans to return to job as top Marine leader

At various points in 2023, four different generals have headed the Marine Corps.

First there was General David Berger, who retired in July after a four-year tenure as commandant in which he sought to transform the Marine Corps into a combat-ready force in the Indo-Pacific.

Then there was Gen. Eric Smith, Berger’s assistant commander, who acted as commander before finally becoming commander in September after receiving Senate confirmation.

Then on October 29, Smith went into cardiac arrest and was hospitalized for two and a half weeks. Major General Karsten Heckl briefly took over as the senior general at Marine Corps headquarters. General Christopher Mahoney he became acting commander on November 3 once the Senate confirmed him as assistant commander.

Smith, who is out of the hospital, has indicated that he intends to return to work as quickly as possible.

If or when Smith returns, he will likely release the commandant’s planning guidance, which lays out his priorities for the Marine Corps, sometime in 2024.

Smith has already made clear his commitment to continuing and even accelerating Berger’s controversial agency overhaul, Force Design 2030. While serving as acting commander, Smith issued brief interim guidance emphasizing crisis management and modernization, naval integration, quality of life, recruitment and retention and good use of the Reserve.

As of the publication date of this article, it is unclear exactly when Smith will return to his office.

But if he’s back on the job by the New Year, there may only be one Marine Corps officer in charge in 2024.

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