Marine general taking steps to return to full duty as commandant several months after heart attack

WASHINGTON — Gen. Eric Smith is taking steps to return to his full duties as commander of the Marine Corps, about four months after being sidelined due to a heart attack, defense officials said.

Smith quietly returned to the Pentagon once a few weeks ago, and was in the building again for a few hours on Friday. Officials said he has been listening to meetings and receiving updates in recent weeks to be prepared when he eventually returns to full duty as commander. They said a return could happen in the coming weeks. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss plans that have not yet been made public.

On October 29, 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 the time, the Marine Corps said he “will return to full duty status as a commander.”

The assistant commander, Gen. Christopher Mahoney, has served as acting chief of the Marine Corps since Smith’s hospitalization. He will continue to do so until Smith returns to full duty, which officials say will happen after consultation with doctors.

Smith was confirmed as the new commander on September 21. His heart attack came just two days after he spoke publicly about the stress of having to do the Marine Corps’ two most important jobs for the service: commander and assistant commander. — for months because Mahoney’s nomination for the second job was held up by Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville.

Tuberville had for months blocked hundreds of military promotions and nominations over his opposition to Pentagon policies that paid for troops’ travel for abortions and other reproductive care. Under pressure from lawmakers on both sides of the political spectrum, Tuberville left office in December, allowing the Senate to confirm more than 435 nominations.