Gen. Eric Smith, the Marine Corps commandant, testifies before the House Armed Services Committee on April 19, 2023.

Gen. Eric Smith, the Marine Corps commandant, testifies before the House Armed Services Committee on April 19, 2023. (Eric R. Dietrich/U.S. Air Force)

WASHINGTON — Gen. Eric Smith, the Marine Corps commandant, is making “excellent progress” several days after he had a heart attack near his home, the service said Friday.

Smith, who took over as the Marine Corps’ top general in September, experienced a sudden cardiac arrest on Sunday near his home at the Marine Barracks in southeastern Washington, the service said, and has spent the past few days at an undisclosed hospital.

Friday’s update on Smith’s health was the second status report from the Marines about the commandant, but the first time that the Corps confirmed he had suffered a heart attack.

“Gen. Smith is making excellent progress,” the service said in a statement. “His baseline physical health has directly contributed to his rapid improvement and he is recovering as expected.”

At the time of his heart attack, Smith had been performing the duties of two jobs — commandant and assistant commandant — for weeks because the nominee for assistant commandant was among almost 400 military officers whose promotions were still being blocked by Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala. Since February, the senator has been blocking voice votes to confirm large groups of military nominations, which has long been the traditional process. Tuberville opposes a Pentagon policy that reimburses troops who travel for reproductive care, including abortions. Many Republican-led states have outlawed or restricted such procedures since the Supreme Court struck down Roe vs. Wade in June 2022.

Some Senate Republicans came forward this week and challenged Tuberville on his block of hundreds of military promotions, which multiple Pentagon leaders have said is harming national security.

“No matter whether you believe it or not, Sen. Tuberville, this is doing great damage to our military,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said Wednesday on the Senate floor after Tuberville continued to object to every nominee brought up for confirmation by voice vote. “I don’t say that lightly. I have been trying to work with you for nine months.”

“It’s wrong and it is unsafe and it is absolutely hurting readiness,” Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks told reporters on Thursday. “It’s bad for our military, it’s bad for our military families, it’s bad for the country. We have seen tragic effects of that stress.”

Smith remains in the hospital. But even after he is discharged, he won’t immediately return to his duties.

“He will continue his recovery at his military quarters but will need to focus on his health prior to fully returning to duty,” the Marine Corps said.

Senate confirmation votes can still take place on an individual basis. Despite Tuberville’s block, the Senate in September confirmed Smith as Marine Corps commandant, Air Force Gen. Charles “CQ” Brown as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Gen. Randy George as Army chief of staff.

This week, the Senate individually confirmed three more top military officers — Lt. Gen. Christopher Mahoney as assistant Marine commandant, Gen. David Allvin as Air Force chief of staff and Adm. Lisa Franchetti as chief of naval operations. Franchetti is the first woman ever to assume that post and the first woman to serve on the Joint Chiefs.

author picture
Doug G. Ware covers the Department of Defense at the Pentagon. He has many years of experience in journalism, digital media and broadcasting and holds a degree from the University of Utah. He is based in Washington, D.C.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now