The top Marine Corps general was hospitalized following a medical emergency Sunday evening, the Corps announced.
The brief statement from Marine Corps headquarters on Monday afternoon didn’t provide details on Marine Commandant Gen. Eric Smith’s condition or specify the medical emergency.
Lt. Gen. Karsten Heckl, deputy commandant for combat development and integration and commanding general of the Marine Corps Combat Development Command, started performing the duties of commandant, according to the statement. An earlier version of the statement referred to Heckl as the acting commandant, but the Corps issued a corrected statement approximately an hour later.
The Marine Corps didn’t immediately respond to a question about what the difference was between “acting commandant” and “performing the duties of commandant.”
By law, the assistant commandant typically would be the one to take over when a commandant is unable to perform the duties of the office.
But because of the refusal by Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Alabama, to join in on providing unanimous consent to senior military nominations, there is no assistant commandant, even though the White House nominated Lt. Gen. Christopher Mahoney for the role in July. Tuberville has maintained this hold in protest of a Pentagon policy providing travel reimbursement and time off for troops seeking out-of-state abortions, which he views as illegal.
Senators have pushed through the nominations of a handful of top military leaders, including Smith, by voting on them one by one.
When Smith simultaneously was the assistant commandant and the acting commandant, he said he was sleeping approximately five hours a night because of the demands of holding two of the top jobs in the Marine Corps.
“Nobody should feel bad for me,” Smith told reporters Sept. 6 at the Defense News Conference in Arlington, Virginia, in response to a Marine Corps Times question about his schedule. “I make plenty of money, and nobody usually yells at me, so that’s good. But it is not a sustainable thing when the last thing you do is flip your computer off at 11:30 at night and you’re getting up at 5 o’clock in the morning.”
His workload hasn’t eased up since his confirmation, because of the lack of an assistant commandant, Smith told reporters Friday at the Military Reporters & Editors conference in Washington.
During the day on Sunday, Smith was at the Marine Corps Marathon in Arlington, Virginia.
Earlier on Monday afternoon, the Center for a New American Security announced it was postponing its event featuring Smith that had been scheduled for Wednesday morning.
Sen. Jack Reed, D-Rhode Island, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in a statement Monday afternoon, “I am wishing General Smith a speedy recovery. He is one of our nation’s finest and toughest leaders, and I hope he will return to full strength soon. My thoughts are with General Smith and his family.”
The Marine Corps said it would release more information on Smith’s condition “at a later time.”
Editor’s note: This story was updated Monday afternoon after with a statement from Sen. Jack Reed and the Marine Corps’ corrected information on Lt. Gen Karsten Heckl’s role.
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.