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Austin Praises Outgoing Commandant, Underscores Marine Corps' Readiness

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III credited outgoing Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. David H. Berger's leadership in underscoring the Corps' adaptability in the face of a rapidly changing national security landscape.

The secretary of defense participates in a ceremony.
Passing the Colors
Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III observes the passing of the colors between Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. David H. Berger and Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Eric M. Smith during Berger’s relinquishment of command ceremony at Marine Barracks Washington, D.C., July 10, 2023.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Alexander Kubitza
VIRIN: 230710-D-PM193-1353

Speaking today at Berger's relinquishment of office ceremony at the Marine Barracks in Washington, Austin said under Berger's leadership, the Marine Corps has navigated emerging security challenges "with the same grit, power and resolve that have always set the Corps apart."  

"Today as we work to strengthen our military for the great competitions ahead, the Marine Corps is absolutely central," Austin said, noting the key role of the service in deterring aggression in the Indo-Pacific and reassuring European allies in the face of Russia's ongoing assault on Ukraine. 

A man is photographed in his military dress uniform.
Marine Corps Gen. David H. Berger
The official photo of the 38th commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. David H. Berger.
Photo By: Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Morgan L. R. Burgess
VIRIN: 190709-M-UN760-0007

As commandant, Berger led the implementation of the Marine Corps' Force Design 2030, the service's modernization blueprint aimed at bolstering U.S. deterrence and the Corps' ability to fight and win wherever called upon.  

Austin said Berger led the "historic and transformational effort" with "vision and creativity and boldness." 

"It's often said that militaries are always preparing to fight the last war. Gen. Berger has been driving hard to deter the next war." Austin said.  

"In his four years as commandant, he has focused relentlessly on the future fight," he said. "He has faced hard choices, and he's faced them head on. He's encouraged creative thinking at every level of the Corps. And he has pushed our department to redefine readiness for the 21st century." 

Monday's ceremony capped Berger's four-year tour as commandant and 42-year career in the Marine Corps.  

Berger said that, throughout his career, he strived to be a servant leader and to put the Marine rifleman at the center of every decision.  

"We know, as Marines, who we are," Berger said. "I tried my best to make sure that the Marine Corps is ready today and ready five, 10 years from now. Where we have succeeded, all the credit goes to all of the Marines around the world who are trying things [and] experimenting." 

He said serving Marines and their families has been the "honor of my life." 

A man in uniform speaks to a group of Marines and sailors.
Berger Remarks
Marine Corps Gen. David H. Berger, 38th commandant of the Marine Corps, speaks to the Marines and sailors of Marine Corps Forces Europe and Africa at U.S. Army Garrison Panzer Kaserne in Boeblingen, Germany, Aug. 9, 2022.
Photo By: Marine Corps Sgt. Claudia Nix
VIRIN: 220809-M-LT196-1021A

Marine Corps. Gen. Eric M. Smith, whose nomination to become the next commandant remains pending in the Senate, will take over as acting commandant until Berger's replacement is confirmed.  

The last time the Marine Corps had an acting commandant was when Col. William Biddle served as acting commandant from Dec. 1, 1910, to Feb. 2, 1911, when he was promoted to major general and confirmed as commandant.

Austin underscored the negative impacts further delays in confirming the next commandant would have on Marine Corps and on national security. 

"Smooth and timely transitions of confirmed leadership are central to the defense of the United States and to the full strength of the most powerful fighting force in history," Austin said.  

 "We have a sacred duty to do right by those who volunteer to wear the cloth of our nation," he said.  "I remain confident that all Americans can come together to agree on that basic obligation to those who keep us safe. I am also confident that the United States Senate will meet its responsibilities, and I look forward to welcoming an outstanding new commandant for our Marine Corps and to adding many other distinguished senior leaders across the joint force." 

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