Modern Day Marine 2024: State of the Corps
1 May 2024


Gen. Smith: Chuck said he was going to keep it short and simple I didn’t think he was going ot keep it that short and simple. He could have embellished it a little bit, you know, greatest guy on the planet. You know, warfighter all that stuff, but okay. That's okay. I know my friends are, so. Chuck, thanks for the introduction, and thanks to the Marine Corps Association and the Marine Corps League for the great event they put together this year and every year.


Next year will mark the Marine Corps 250th birthday, and I imagine Modern Day Marine will be even bigger and better next year.


No pressure, Chuck.


Although everyone who is part of this Modern Day Marine family knows who’s really behind all this.


It’s our dear friends Marta Sullivan and Jaymie Nielsen.

Marta, Jaymie, thank you for everything you did, and continue to do year round to make this all come together cause it is a year round event for you, cause MDM 2025 starts 1900 tonight.



All of us are the beneficiaries – we just walk in and see our friends, the displays and panels, but you spent months and months on this and deserve more praise than we can give you.


Some of you may have seen me on Tuesday.


I snuck in unannounced. Sorry, but not sorry.


One of the hard parts of being the Commandant is that people will act different around you, even when you tell them not to – so sometimes you just have to drop in on people if you want to get the real scoop.


Because often say when I when I come here, it can in this is not an offense to industry. So don't take it that way. I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say something. But it's a little bit like being a man in a meat suit and a dog pound. Your, you know, there's only one of me. And there's a lot of you and I want to get to all of you. But it's impossible to do. So thanks for your forbearance. And if I didn't make it to your particular booth, it's not because I'm not interested in what you're doing. It's just because there's only one of me. But I have lots of Deputy Commandant's sitting right here in the front row. And they've they've been participating, and they've been out there. And believe me, they're gonna give me lots of feedback. I'm gonna get lots of feedback from Lightfoot, Skirt Lady, Rain Man, Adams and Greg Olsen. One of the hard parts about being the Commandant is that people will act differently around you, even when you tell them not to. So sometimes you just have to drop in on people if you want to get the real scoop.


It’s like being the battalion or squadron duty officer 24/7.

You just never can show up unannounced because you travel with a group. So again, I really appreciate the Deputy Commandant stepping up.


On Friday night, you can either let them know you’re coming to inspect the barracks, or you can just show up unannounced.


For those of you that have been there, you know it’s going to be a very different experience.


What I’ve seen this week has been truly inspiring. 


Right here, on this floor, I saw junior Marines alongside General Officers and Sergeants Major…


I saw Marine families networking with each other, I saw Allies and Partners, some who I’ve known for decades, and some I’ve had the pleasure of meeting for the first time.


On Tuesday, I ran into the Vice Chief of Naval Operations for Sweden on the escalator.


That’s worth thinking about, because last year, Sweden was a trusted partner but this year they’re an Ally—and we spell Ally with a capital A in the DOD.


Bringing together all these groups under one roof, to discuss our challenges, to speak to our successes, or just to talk shop – that’s what Modern Day Marine is all about.


It’s a place to connect with friends you’ve had for years, but also to find those new friends who will help bring you into the future.

It's a place to connect with friends you've had for years, but also to find some new friends who will help bring you into the future.






This year’s theme, Any Clime or Place – from Sea to Space – couldn’t be a more appropriate description of where we find ourselves today, and the challenges we will confront in the years ahead.


Secretary Del Toro set the stage in his remarks this morning, but it’s  worth repeating.


Right now, May, 2024, the Marine Corps must be ready to respond to crisis or conflict in the Eastern Mediterranean, the European Continent, Middle East, Western Pacific, High North, Africa, and every other corner of the globe.


We must be ready to fight across, beneath and above all seven continents and every ocean.


From triple canopy jungle to open desert, from extreme cold to sweltering heat.


From the rugged terrain of the high north to the global littorals, the Marine Corps stands ready to bring the fight to our Nation’s enemies.


Regardless of geography or location, no matter who I talk to, from Combatant Commanders to everyday Americans, there is one thing everyone wants more of:  Our Marines.

can't tell you how many times I have combatant commanders asked me just give me one more mu just give me one more battalion just give me one more squadron Give me half a squadron. You're the most highly sought after commodity on the planet Marines. And you should be proud of that.


Our Marine Expeditionary Units steaming across the seas, our Stand-In Forces inside the WEZ, and all our forward deployed naval forces around the globe – demand for the World’s Finest is high, and we will meet that demand.


From the very beginning of our training, Marines are taught that there are two types of tasks—specified and implied.


To me, the subtext, the implied task, of the phrase Any Clime or Place is –Any Clime or Place – against any adversary.


We have already identified, correctly, many of the tools required to win against a peer competitor.


We have already identified, correctly, our role in the high-end fight.


But innovation never stops, and we must continue on the path to acquire future capabilities necessary to deter and, if called, to win against our pacing threat.


Many of those tools are on display behind you this afternoon.



Earlier this month, I released Frag Order 1-24, entitled Maintain Momentum. 


That title should tell you a lot about the direction the Corps is headed as we continue the righteous path of Force Design.



In the FRAGO, I reinforced my top priorities.


The most important is based on two challenges – being ready to campaign, respond to crisis, and deter today – and investing in the capabilities to make us ready for tomorrow… it takes a balance.



Over the next three years, we must effectively synchronize personnel, readiness, and investments to achieve that balance. And it might be the biggest challenge I face in my time as Commandant.



My second priority – Naval Integration and Organic Mobility – builds on the first.


We must be able to forward deploy – either embarked aboard Amphibious ships or postured ashore in expeditionary advanced bases.


We must possess the organic mobility required to remain distributed and highly maneuverable.


The Nation’s requirement is no less than 31 amphibious ships, that’s 10 big decks and 21 LPDs, and this year's thirty-year shipbuilding plan has allowed us to move towards achieving the right mix of 31 amphibious ships, including crucial updates with LPDs on 2-year centers and LHAs moving to 3 and a half year centers. That’s vital to national security.


L-Class ships, the aircraft and connectors they embark, and the landing ship medium, all play a significant role in the mobility we bring to the fight.

They are a part of the system of platforms we need to provide our commanders on the ground the ability to maneuver, sustain, and C2 our forward deployed Marines.


The CH-53K, the MV-22, LCACs, LCUs, LSMs, and even new capabilities like the Autonomous Low-Profile Vehicles, or ALPVs and TRUAS – they form a system of mobility and sustainment necessary to maneuver in a contested environment.


All of this, it doesn’t depend on the platform. Investment is necessary, but innovation is mandatory.


The Secretary of the Navy and CNO have advocated for Amphibious Ships, I expect everyone here to show how relevant they are today and into the future through experimentation and innovation.


There is a lot of room to find new methods of employment for our amphibious ships, in addition to the tried-and-true missions we bring to the fight today.


Integration with the Navy – doctrinally, operationally, tactically – it is mandatory for how we fight.

Integration is happening at my level – the CNO and I have locked shields – it’s happening really well at the Task Force level with Task Force 61/2, 76/3, and 51/5.


I need it to happen at every level. That’s a task for you Marines.


There is a technical element to this, there is a planning and strategy element to this, but the most importantly, there is a human element.



Everything depends on the Marine. We must recruit, make, and retain the type of Marine necessary to win today, and in the future. Bottom line.


Because first and foremost – the state of the Marine Corps is only as strong as the state of our Individual Marine.


I am constantly humbled by the quality and the dedication of the young Americans who continue to measure themselves against our high standards.


It’s not a guarantee 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.

Make no mistake, they are as tough and dedicated as the Marines of any generation before them – and they’re smarter.

They're all smarter than me. I guarantee you, as I walk around this floor, and I talk to young marines, I need a translator. Because they are moving at lightspeed, and I'm moving at 55 miles an hour. They are in fact, a cut above.


Because, frankly, they have to be – It is this generation of Marines who will bear the responsibility of knowing how to fix bayonets and charge into the center of the enemy.


But they will also have to confront new, emerging technologies, such as generative AI, machine learning, and quantum computing.


Done right, Marines will sense and make sense of the battlefield in ways that will carry decision advantage to their commanders like no generation before them.


And, when the time comes, they will take the hill just as well as every Marine who came before them.


I am humbled every day to be the Commandant of this generation of Marines. And I’m humbled by the remarkable success we’ve had in recruiting and retention.


We're not only meeting our goals but doing so without compromising the quality of our Marines.


And every day around the Corps, they are proving me right across every element of the MAGTF.


In the air, the 53 Kilo is setting heavy lift records every day – we are about to complete the transition of our first squadron, and this year we will start standing up the Kilo at our training squadron.


Last week, and I hope you saw this – the CH-53K externally transported an F-35C over 300 Nautical Miles from Pax River to New Jersey, conducting aerial refueling along the way. That is impressive.


Transpose that onto any ship-to-shore mission globally, and I think we have a return-on-investment worth talking about.


On the other side of the flightline, our MV-22’s continue to prove why they are such a unique and critical asset to the Marine Corps.


I am blown away by the professionalism of our pilots, aircrew, and maintainers that conduct the lion’s share of assault support missions for our Corps and provide critical mobility to our Marines on the ground.

Out at 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing, the Night Owls of our VMU Training squadron just began receiving and assembling their first full MQ-9 system. 


That means in Fiscal Year 25 we will have three Aircraft Wings with MQ-9 capability. We still don’t have the volume of them we need, but the capability is growing quickly. And the MQ-9 is a vital part of our future.


LPD’s, LSMs, 53Ks, MQ-9s… They are all platforms. But modernization isn’t just about platforms. At the end of the day, we are a values-based Corps.


Honor, courage, and commitment is not a bumper sticker—it is a reminder that our duty, as Marines, is to accomplish any mission, and that our duty as Marine leaders, is to take care of the Marines who we send into harm’s way to accomplish that mission.


After 37 years in the Corps, I’ve learned that heroic acts come in many forms, and sometimes the simple act of caring about your Marines is heroic.


Quality of life doesn’t mean giving Marines everything they want, but it does mean giving Marines what they need. To know many of you who know me have heard me say that. I don’t care what you want, but I do care what you need.


Sometimes they need better barracks and gyms and daycare facilities, sometimes they justneed basic leadership.


This year, I’ve spent a lot of time communicating the importance of infrastructure modernization, and we’ve made significant strides on that path with Barracks 2030.


It is our most consequential investment in barracks to date, and it is sorely needed.

The barracks have taken a hit over the years. And frankly, I won't apologize for that. Because when we geared up for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, we focused on weapons systems in training and technology. And that focus, kept a lot of Marines alive in Helmand Province, kept a lot of Marines alive in wreck in the Sunni triangle. And so again, I can't apologize for heaven for previous generations and Marines making the right decision to prioritize training and equipping over quality of life. But now the tide has to turn and we have to get back to quality of life.


The heart of the initiative is improving the barracks that need it, tearing down old ones beyond repair, finding efficiencies within individual Marine units, and building new ones where we need them.


Beyond that, it’s also about a holistic approach to barracks management, which ultimately enhances our readiness by returning over 500 Marines to the operational forces — that’s over two infantry line companies.


That number is not inconsequential.


As we speak, we have over 32 thousand Marines forward stationed or forward deployed.


And Marines that aren’t forward today, are training to go, and maintaining the high state of readiness necessary to remain first to fight and serve as the Nation’s 9-11 force.


I look at the floor behind you and I see a single purpose, supported by many dedicated Americans and our steadfast allies.


That purpose is to ensure that our Marines remain the most ready and lethal fighting force on the planet.


To our industry partners – I’d like to point out that Modern Day Marine was barely getting off the ground when I started out in the Corps. It was done in the field in Quantico, out in front of what we call the Major Dad building, the lagoon building on Washington Field, and it was pallets, and rain, and a couple of tents. And now It’s come a long way.  This is what right looks like, engaged members of industry side-by-side with the Marines who will employ their equipment in the field.


Take a good look at your equipment on display, because my Marines are going to put it through its paces and tell you where it broke.

That is just how we do it, and I have no doubt the “post-Lance Corporal, Version 2.0” of your product will be even better.

Last but not least, I’d like to thank the Marines who traveled here to participate in this year’s convention.


The most important “M” in Modern Day Marine is the last one. This is all about you.


So, take one more lap around the floor. Find me and tell me what impressed you, and how you would use it.

Help me make the next fight the most unfair one our opponents have ever seen. 


More importantly, bring your observations back to your units, incorporate it into your planning and experimentation.


I don’t know what idea, concept, or platform will make the difference on the future battlefield… But I do know that it isn’t the one you kept to yourself.


Thank you for joining us this week, with that, I will turn it over to Q&A to see what is on your mind.


Host: Sir, we've got some good questions coming in from the audience. What are the goals of the forthcoming Navy Marine Corps Memorandum of Understanding on amphibious readiness? And what do ongoing issues with the boxer if it is ready for the Marine Corps mission?


The memorandum of understanding that I've got *inaudible* here who could answer that question better than I can. But Admiral Franchetti and I have locked shields on the number 31. And we watch fields on 80%, a servo, 80%. Readiness, we have a long way to go to get there. We put off maintenance. And remember this is not Marine Corps versus Navy. This is Marine Corps, Navy, not vs. But in in in versus, on be careful you're as opposed to combatant commander needs. It is not the Navy who extends amphibious ready groups. It is the combatant commanders who seek to have them extended because they are so vital and so useful. So we have to get back to a three to make one readiness rate where we have three ARG MEUs with the full up round ships. We've got the Marines, we just need the ships. But my friend Katie and I have locked shields on that. And we're committed to 21 LPDs and 10 Big decks.


Host : Thank you, Sir. With regard to our allies and partners, how do you foresee the Marine Corps engaging with the Australian Defense Force into the future, particularly in the Indo Pacific?


Gen. Smith:

Yeah, for the Aussies. Look, we live down under six months a year. We have MRFD, Marine Rotational Forces Darwin. And that force is showing how we can extend ourselves through the Southern Pacific, which is going to be vital in the fight to keep the global commons open. And it's the gateway to the southern Philippines. It's the gateway to the Western Pacific. And so we're partnered with the ally with the Australians and welcome continue to operate MRFD, Marine Rotational Forces Darwin. It's a great training venue. Some of the training there is unlike any you've ever seen before. I've been there, flown in an MV 22 in the outback. And it is, it's as austere and environment, as one can imagine. And the shallow waters that are surrounding Darwin are difficult to navigate in. And they remind us of why we need littoral combatship.


Host: How can the Marine Corps better integrate innovative ideas from Marines in the fleet, particularly at a larger scale than we already do?



Gen. Smith: Yeah, well, that's a great question. And it's always it's always a challenge, because we've tried online venues. For Marines, this meeting their questions, one of the best ways they can do it is through the Leatherneck in the Marine Corps Gazette, sending in letters to the editor, and submitting articles, because all of us here, I think, our members, I hope, our members of the Marine Corps Association Foundation, if you're not, you shouldn't be that's not a paid Political advertisement. But if you don't know you don't know, if you don't get the Gazette and a Leatherneck, you're not really embracing your trade. So I think submitting those articles is really the key to include using the chain of command, you know, submitting ideas up, because what I know of is no, no good idea ever started here. And no bad idea ever started here. You know, it's if it's a bad idea, oh, it was that then they started that. And if it was a good idea, then hopefully, nobody will be shameless enough to take credit for it because there's nothing that that will uncover that hasn't already been discussed in the in the squad bay or in the barracks by young Lance Corporal or young Corporal fireteam leader or young Sergeant squad leader, or young staff sergeant platoon commander, because they have the answers, they just have to get, get the get to be part of the Gazette, submit articles, so that we're more widely read. And we do that through professional military education as well. And PME is the key. If we don't do PME, we're, we're not going to get there.