Gen. Eric M. Smith delivers keynote address at 2023 MRE Conference

Transcript and Q&A session video

WASHINGTON — As a keynote speaker Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Eric M. Smith addressed journalists during Military Reporters & Editors annual conference on Friday, Oct. 27. His speech was brief and to the point, delivering a clear message to members of the media who travel to areas of conflict.

Here is a transcript of Gen. Smith’s opening remarks.

Opening Remarks Transcript (lightly edited for clarity)

Howard Altman: So it’s my pleasure as MRE President to introduce our next guest, the Commandant of the Marine Corps General Eric Smith. General, thank you so much for taking the time.

Commandant Gen. Eric M. Smith: You’re most welcome. Thanks very much.

Howard Altman: It’s yours. Thanks.

Commandant Gen. Eric M. Smith: How’s everybody doing? Alright. Well, I recognize some faces here. Some I don’t. So, I will be very brief because I think the best way I can show you respect is to do what you want to do, which is to ask questions, as opposed to hear me talk. I will say literally just a couple things.

One is, thank you. As fellow defenders of the First Amendment, I appreciate what you do, especially now when there’re conflicts globally. If I saw the news correctly this morning, I think there’s 11 or 12 journalists killed thus far in the conflict in Gaza and Israel.

There’s a Marine, also a journalist, Austin Tice, we should call him out — I appreciate you wearing the pin. Thank you for what you do, for seeking the truth, putting a light on it and often putting your own lives in danger by doing that.

As a Marine, I would tell you we are purpose-built and trained to come get you. So, I have evacuated journalists out of Liberia and other members of my company evacuated them out of the Central African Republic in 1996.

So, if you’re forward and I hope you don’t get in harm’s way, but I know many of you will and have already been. You can rest assured that if you need something, the Marines will come get you. That’s what we do because that’s what you do. I will simply leave it at that.

Thank you for what you do to defend the First Amendment and I will turn it over to your questions.

So, I am standing by to take your questions and I’ll stay as long as you will have me. I know Joe Votel is following me. Thank you for letting me go first because you don’t want to follow Joe Votel. It’s not a good place to be. So, I am ready for your questions and let me also just say thank you very much for having me.

Following Gen. Smith’s introductory comments the session was opened to members of the press for questions and answers, moderated by Carla Babb of Voice of America. Discussion ranged from deployment of U.S. Marines to the Midlle East to substandard military housing to mental health services and the suicide rate to a status update on munitions and equipment.

You can view the wide-ranging discussion in its entirety via the live recording here provided by Ivan Meyers, Medill News Service, Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications, Northwestern University, Washington, DC.