The Marine Corps’ most senior officer stated his key priorities and praised his fighting force during a state of the Marine Corps speech closing out a three-day defense industry exposition today in Washington.

During his speech, Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Eric M. Smith spoke about maintaining a balance between being ready to respond to crises in the present while at the same time investing in future capabilities; being able to partner with the Navy in meeting the amphibious ship building requirements necessary to keep the Marine Corps mobile across the globe; and recruiting, training and retaining new Marines — a topic Smith spoke about passionately and at length. 

“I’m constantly humbled by the quality and dedication of the young Americans who continue to measure themselves against our high standards [and] who compete for the title of Marine: Earned, never given,” Smith said.

“It’s not a guarantee that they’re going to measure up, but those who make the cut earn something few can: the privilege of becoming a Marine, and the privilege of wearing our cloth.”

The most important ‘m’ in ‘Modern Day Marine’ is the last one. … It’s all about you. … It’s all about Marines.

Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Eric M. Smith

While speaking about the Corps’ personnel, Smith praised the newest generation of Marines, saying that not only are they as tough and dedicated as the Marines who came before them, but that they’re intelligent, as well. 

“They’re all smarter than me, I guarantee you,” Smith jested to the crowd. “As I walk around this floor and I talk to young Marines, I need a translator; because they are moving at light speed, and I’m moving at 55 miles per hour. They are, in fact, a cut above.”

Smith also spoke about the necessity to invest in the well-being of the fighting force. 

“After 37 years in the Marine Corps, I’ve learned that heroic acts come in many forms, and sometimes the simple act of caring about your Marines is heroic,” said Smith, adding that “quality of life” doesn’t mean giving Marines everything they ask for, “but it does mean giving them everything that they need.” 

To that end, Smith spoke at length about the need for infrastructure modernization in the Marine Corps. Specifically, he referenced the Corps’ Barracks 2030 initiative, a project to improve quality of life for Marines by making meaningful near-term and long-term investments.

It’s our most consequential investment in barracks to date, and it is sorely needed,” Smith said. “The heart of the initiative is improving the barracks that need it, tearing down old ones that are beyond repair, finding efficiencies within individual … units, and building new ones where we need them,” he explained.

On the topic of striking a balance between being ready to respond and investing in the future, Smith said doing so would be “difficult.” 

“Over the next three years, we must effectively synchronize personnel, readiness and investments to achieve that balance,” said Smith, “and it might be the biggest challenge I face [in] my time as the commandant.” 

To meet such a challenge, Smith said partnering with the Navy in the pursuit of innovation to ensure Marine Corps mobility is key. 

“The secretary of the Navy and the [chief of naval operations] have advocated for amphibious ships, and I expect everyone here to show how relevant they are today and into the future through experimentation and innovation,” said Smith. “Integration with the Navy — doctrinally, operationally [and] tactically — is mandatory for how we fight.”

“There’s a technical element to this; there’s a planning strategy element to this; but — most importantly — there’s a human element … and I need it to happen at your level, Marines.”   

Smith rounded out his speech by thanking all the Marines for attending the expo and encouraging them to provide their feedback on what they think of all the new military technology on display.

“The most important ‘m’ in ‘Modern Day Marine’ is the last one,” Smith told crowd. “It’s all about you … It’s all about Marines.”

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