General Smith was born on March 13, 1946, in Shidler, Oklahoma. In December 1965 he enlisted in the Marine Corps and reported to the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in January 1966. He completed Officer Candidate School in March 1967 and The Basic School in August 1967. Ordered to Vietnam after completion of school, he served as a rifle platoon commander in Company A, 1st Battalion, 1st Marines. Taking command of the company in Hue during the Tet Offensive in 1968, he commanded the company for the remaining nine months of his tour, seeing action in Ue, Khe Sanh, the Rockpile, Con Thien and Dodge City south of DaNang. After promotion to captain and attending the Vietnamese Language School, he returned to Vietnam as an adviser to the Vietnamese Marine Corps through the Easter Offensive and counter offensive of 1972.
From 1973 to 1984 he completed his Bachelor of arts degree in asian studies at Oklahoma State University, led Battalion Landing Team 2/8 in both Urgent Fury in Grenada and in Beirut and was promoted to lieutenant colonel. Gen. Smith earned a master's degree in international relations from the Naval War College and in May 1988, assumed command of the 8th Marine Regiment. He was advanced to the grade of brigadier general June 23, 1992 and assigned duty as Deputy Commanding General, Marine Corps Bases, Japan. Advancing to major general in 1996, he returned to Camp Lejeune as Deputy Commanding General, II Marine Expeditionary Force. He assumed the assignment, Commanding General, Marine Corps Base, Camp Lejeune in 1997.
His personal decorations include: the Navy Cross; Defense Distinguished Service Medal; Silver Start Medal with gold star; Legion of Merit with gold star; Bronze Star with Combat "V"; and the Purple Heart with two gold stars.