CAMP PENDLETON Brigadier Gen. Eric M. Smith, who deployed to Iraq and most recently served at the Pentagon, is the new commanding general of the storied 1st Marine Division.
In a ceremony at the division headquarters at the base Friday, Major Gen. Daniel O’Donohue handed over command of the 23,000-strong division in a spirited ceremony that put the 1st Division Band front and center. The division’s four combat-ready regiments and seven battalions currently have Marines and sailors deployed in 15 countries.
Smith, from Plano,Texas entered the Marine Corps in 1987 through the NROTC program at Texas A&M University. He commanded infantry and regimental units in Iraq and Afghanistan. He most recently worked at the Pentagon, where he served as senior military secretary to the secretary of defense and most recently as assistant deputy commandant for plans, policies and operations.
The ceremony included dozens of military officials, families and representatives from Orange and San Diego counties, including San Clemente’s Gold Star parents Carla and Jim Hogan.
Their son, Lance Cpl. Donald Hogan, was killed on Aug. 26, 2009, in Afghanistan. The 20-year-old was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross for sacrificing his life to keep others away from a bomb.
The 1st Marine Division is the Corps’ oldest and largest active-duty division. It’s made of Marines and sailors from Camp Pendleton and Twentynine Palms Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center.
Marines in the 1st Division have served on the beaches of Guadalcanal, in the mountains of Korea, the jungles of Vietnam and the deserts of Iraq and Afghanistan. It was activated Feb. 1, 1941. It deploys infantry, artillery, mechanized and support throughout the world.
A Facebook Live audience of 17,000 watched the event.