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Marine Corps says commandant underwent successful open-heart surgery

By Haley Britzky, CNN

(CNN) — Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Eric Smith had a successful open-heart surgery on Monday “to repair a bicuspid aortic valve in his heart,” the Marine Corps announced in a news release.

He is “in good condition and continues to recover at the hospital among family members and his doctors,” according to the release.

Smith will return to his full duty status as the commandant following rehabilitation, the Marine Corps said. In the meantime, Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Christopher Mahoney will continue to perform the duties of the 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 release said.

The heart issue was the cause of Smith’s cardiac arrest in October 2023. At the time of his hospitalization last year, Mahoney had yet to be confirmed due to a hold on military promotions by Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville, which has since been lifted. The role was temporarily filled instead by the deputy commandant for combat development and integration.

Smith was confirmed by the Senate to serve in the role in September 2023 after Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer moved to have three key military promotions – the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Marine Corps commandant and the Army chief of staff – voted on separately rather than as part of a bloc held up due to Tuberville’s hold.

The news of Smith’s procedure and update on his health status come as Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin faces intense scrutiny from lawmakers after senior officials, including President Joe Biden, were not informed for days of his hospitalization on January 1 due to complications from an elective surgery.

Lawmakers are demanding accountability for Austin leaving officials in the dark as questions remain over when he’ll be discharged from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland.

CNN’s Natasha BertrandOren Liebermann and Jack Forrest contributed to this report.

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