Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Eric Smith was removed from inpatient care on Wednesday and is awaiting surgery to repair a heart condition, the Marine Corps said Thursday.

Smith suffered cardiac arrest while jogging near his Washington, D.C., home and was rushed to the hospital on Oct. 29, leaving a three-star general to take on his role temporarily. Smith’s doctors now say that a bicuspid aortic valve, a congenital abnormality where the the aortic valve only has two leaflets instead of three, “directly contributed” to his cardiac arrest, the Marine Corps said in a statement.

“Gen. Smith’s recovery is well ahead of schedule, and he is now focused on preparing for an upcoming procedure to repair a bicuspid aortic valve in his heart, which his doctors assess directly contributed to his cardiac arrest,” the statement said.

Marine Corps Assistant Commandant Gen. Christopher Mahoney is currently performing the duties of the commandant until Smith reaches full recover, the Marines said.

“Gen. Mahoney and I see eye to eye on the strategic direction of our Corps and we are fortunate to be surrounded by a Marine Corps family filled with America’s finest leaders,” Smith said in the statement. “We continue to focus on finding the right balance between modernizing through Force Design and our day-to-day crisis response mission, while also on taking care of our Marines and Sailors.”

The Senate only confirmed Mahoney into the second-in-command post on Nov. 2, following pressure after Smith’s hospitalization catapulted Lt. Gen. Karsten Heckl, the next highest ranking Marine at Marine Corps headquarters, into his role. Republican Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville began pushing to confirm Mahoney the day after the Marine Corps announced Smith’s hospitalization.

Smith had previously called his schedule, packed with duties of both commandant and assistant commandant, “unsustainable,” Marine Corps Times reported.

“Emergencies happen, and when they do the chain of command must be able to respond,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said, according to Politico. “But thanks to Senator Tuberville, there is no current No. 2 with the Marine Corps to fill in.”

Mary Lou Masters on November 17, 2023

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