Marine Lt. Gen. Eric Smith has been selected as the next assistant commandant of the Marine Corps, according to the Defense Department release from July 15.
The new assignment for Smith, from Plano, Texas, will have to be approved by the Senate.
If he is approved, the new job will come with a promotion to four-star, USNI first reported.
Smith currently is the deputy commandant for combat development and integration at Headquarters Marine Corps and commanding general at Marine Corps Combat Development Command, Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia.
In that role he has been one of the leading voices on the force design changes that have been Marine Commandant Gen. David Berger’s main priority during his time in charge of the Corps.
Berger envisions a future Marine Corps that is smaller, lighter and more spread out to faceoff against China and other “near peer” militaries.
The Combat Development Center has been a driving force for a lot of the testing and designs that have gone into Force Design 2030 and has released several of the documents that define the Corps’ plan, such as the “Tentative Manual for Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations.”
Smith’s long career started in 1987 when he commissioned from the Texas A&M Navy ROTC program, according to his official biography.
As an infantry officer he served in Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm before returning to his alma mater as an NROTC instructor.
In June 2017 Smith took command of the 1st Marine Division, serving in the role for a little over a year.
His crusade against hazing in the division put nearly 30 Marines in the brig and led to the general receiving a reprimand from the United States Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals for his “personal interest” and bias in the hazing proceedings.
Despite the reprimand, Smith took over as commander of III Marine Expeditionary Force, with headquarters in Okinawa, Japan, in August 2018.
With the shifting focus from the Middle East to the Pacific, III MEF has been made a priority for Berger, who previously urged the best Marines in the Corps to seek posting in the Pacific theater.
Smiths served as the MEF’s commander until June 2019 when he started his current jobs.
If his nomination is accepted by the Senate, Smith will replace Gen. Gary Thomas, another Texan who commissioned as an officer in 1984 after graduating from the University of Texas, according to his official biography.
Thomas plans on retiring once he leaves his job as the assistant commandant of the Marine Corps, Maj. Jim Stenger, a headquarters Marine Corps spokesman, told Marine Corps Times in an email Aug. 5.