Heckl to Marine Corps: ‘Continue the March Forward’

October 31, 2023 5:20 PM
Lt. Gen. Karsten S. Heckl gives remarks during the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory change of command ceremony at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, June 24, 2022. US Marine Corps Photo

The Marine Corps’ interim leader urged his Marines to move forward in a Tuesday message, as the head of the service remains hospitalized after suffering a heart attack.

Lt. Gen. Karsten Heckl, the deputy commandant for combat development and integration, is now performing the duties of the commandant following Gen. Eric Smith’s hear attack on Sunday and subsequent hospitalization.

“My thoughts and prayers, as well as those of all our fellow Marines, both past and present, are with our Commandant and his family at this time. In typical Marine fashion, I am the next Marine up. This is what we do, as so many have done before us throughout the history of our Corps,” Heckl said in the statement.
“We must continue the march forward on behalf of our fellow Marines and Nation, regardless of the situation or the uncertainty that we may face. That is what our Commandant wants, and what the citizens of our Nation require of each and every one of us.”

Sgt. Maj. Carlos Ruiz, the service’s top enlisted Marine, released a message to the service on Monday following Smith’s hospitalization.

“I know that all Marines will join me in wishing Smith a swift recovery so he can return to duty. I also know that Marines across our corps are professional warfighters, who will remain focused on the important work each of you are doing everyday,” Ruiz said.

Heckl has stepped into the role as the officer tapped to be the second-in-command of the service has yet to be confirmed. Lt. Gen. Christopher Mahoney is one of almost 400 general and flag officers who are stalled due to Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s (R-Ala.) hold on unanimous consent over a Pentagon policy that reimburses service members for out-of-state travel for reproductive care, including abortions. Tuberville says the policy is a violation of the Hyde Amendment that bans federal funds to be used for abortions.

The hold on unanimous consent prevents the Senate from quickly approving military nominations in a large group. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-.N.Y.) for months had refused to bring up the nominations individually for a voice vote but filed cloture for Smith, Air Force Gen. C.Q. Brown and Army Gen. Randy George on Sept. 20, paving the way for their confirmations.

While Smith was confirmed as commandant in September, he has also been doing the job of the assistant commandant, his previous post, due to the vacancy.

Following news of Smith’s heart attack, Tuberville is proposing a plan to have the Senate confirm Mahoney as assistant commandant, a Senate aide confirmed to USNI News.

Mallory Shelbourne

Mallory Shelbourne

Mallory Shelbourne is a reporter for USNI News. She previously covered the Navy for Inside Defense and reported on politics for The Hill.
Follow @MalShelbourne

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