The top Marine general is in “good condition” after receiving open-heart surgery Monday to fix the condition that caused his cardiac arrest in October, the Marine Corps said.
Gen. Eric Smith, the Marine commandant, hasn’t been on full duty status since he went into cardiac arrest Oct. 29.
The surgery, to repair a bicuspid aortic valve in his heart, was “successful,” and Smith is recovering at the hospital, according to a Monday evening statement from the Marine Corps.
The commandant plans to return to full duty status after his rehabilitation, the statement said, echoing comments Smith has made in recent months.
Meanwhile, Assistant Commandant Gen. Christopher Mahoney continues to perform the duties of commandant.
“General Smith and his family are focused on his rehabilitation and appreciate everyone’s continued respect for their privacy ahead of his full recovery,” the statement from the Marine Corps said.
The disclosure from the Marine Corps comes as Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and his team are under scrutiny for not informing the public of Austin’s Jan. 1 emergency hospitalization for several days.
The day after Smith’s cardiac arrest, Marine Corps headquarters issued a brief news release announcing that the commandant had experienced a medical emergency and had been hospitalized, leaving another general in charge.
The service initially declined to specify the medical emergency Smith had experienced or what kind of condition he was in, citing the family’s desire for privacy. But it disclosed within a week that Smith had experienced a cardiac arrest and provided more details in the ensuing weeks.
Smith, previously the assistant commandant, took on the duties of commandant when his predecessor, Gen. David Berger, retired in July.
His nomination to become commandant was stalled in the Senate for months by Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., who held up senior military nominations in protest of a Pentagon abortion policy. Even once Smith was confirmed as commandant, he lacked a deputy, due to the continued hold on Mahoney’s nomination.
Smith told reporters in the months before his cardiac arrest that he was essentially juggling the jobs of commandant and assistant commandant at once, working an 18-hour schedule he described as “not sustainable.”
The Marine Corps has said Smith’s bicuspid aortic valve, a heart abnormality that is present from birth, was the cause of his cardiac arrest.
Irene Loewenson is a staff reporter for Marine Corps Times. She joined Military Times as an editorial fellow in August 2022. She is a graduate of Williams College, where she was the editor-in-chief of the student newspaper.