Sgt. Maitland’s Field Expedient Smoker

Sgt. Maitland’s Field Expedient Smoker
Gideon D. Asche

This article was originally published on The Havok Journal

One of things every career Soldier learns early is there are certain people in every unit that you want to have a good working relationship with.

You don’t piss-off the Company Clerk or the Motor Pool Sergeant, Supply Sergeant, your Medic or anyone in the Mess section – they are all in a position to make your life easier or miserable.

I was careful to cultivate a good relationship with those 4 groups of people anyplace I was stationed and I never once paid for a lost piece of TA-50, worried about having a vehicle available or found anything resembling a booger in my food – a couple of you newly commissioned officers just said  “Oh Shit!” under your breath – didn’t you?

At  Ft. Wainwrite, I crewed one of the aircraft assigned to “Fledgling Training.” I bet we took every cook in the 222nd Aviation, the mess hall where we ate, for a ride at one time or another making for excellent relations with the mess section.

We only taught Arctic survival in the winter; we couldn’t start a class or take one to the field unless it was minus twenty degrees or colder.

That meant most of us worked nonstop from the time the sun set in November until it came back up in March. The unofficial motto of the Cadre was “Forty Below keeps the Rif-Raff out.”  The few hours of dawn or dusk each day didn’t qualify as day and night.

In the summer we would take a month to do a Brigade level field exercise, then  we would just go play in the tundra, hunt, fish, camp, throw Frisbees and drink beer until “Cool School” fired up for the winter. Blade boxes full of Ice, beer and steaks were a standard addition to our TO&E every summer.

I was but a wee SP-4 at the time, so when the Mess Sgt. offered to show me how to makesmoker1 a “Field Expedient Smoker” – I was thinking along another track. Smoking meat was not my first thought when he mentioned “Smoker” – well not until a little later anyway. In my defense, it was the early 70’s.

That was before contract “Spoons,” so we had active duty cooks assigned. I never considered smoking meat. I figured it would clog up my flashlight, but what Sgt Maitland had in mind turned to be as useful as what I had in mind – I still use his technique today.

We convinced the Sugar Bears (242nd ASH Co.) to not only let us borrow their two giant grills; they even scheduled a mission to deliver them to out on the river to us by CH-47. All we had to do was make one of them into a smoker – Sgt. Maitland had the solution.

I give you Sgt. Maitland’s Field Expedient Smoker.

This simple smoker can be used with virtually any grill be it gas or charcoal. All you need is a few common things every Soldier or veteran has in his garage.

Required tools and supplies:

can11 – NATO standard 5.56mm Ammo can.

2 – Holey grill pan or vegetable basket.

3 – Electric drill & ¼” Carbide bit. (Ammo cans are made of much better steel than you might expect)

4 – Ample Adult Beverages

5 – Wood Chips

The standard Military ammo can is constructed of unusually strong steel, so you need to smoker fig1get a good sharp carbon tipped drill bit and drill holes in the bottom of the can.

If you are highly disciplined Ranger or one of those for whom metal gladly yields its will then you will end up with a pattern of perfectly spaced perfectly placed holes – if you’re me, you’ll end up with Fig.1

Drill a few more holes in two long sides for ventilation and your smoker is ready. Just make sure you remove the rubber seal – it’ll make your meat taste funny.

smoker3Chose a combination of both chunks and chips then prepare your wood chips by soaking them in water overnight then pack your smoker can loosely.

Larger chunks of wood mixed with some of the smaller chips work much better than the sawdust stuff they sell for electric smokers, but you will have to decide what you like.

If you have a gas grill:  Remove one grill section and place the now woodchip packed ammo can, on one of the long-sides, directly on the drip plate that shields the burner. If you use a charcoal grill, just place the long-side down directly on the coals below the grill grate. If your grill has chimneys or top vents close them off or block them with foil.

You will need to use a Bird Rack or some elevated surface on which to place your meat. I fig3use a perforated grilling pan I picked up a hardware store a few years back – anything that lets the smoke caress the meat will work.  Fig.3.

Fire up the grill early because it could take as long as an extra 60 to 90 mins to get your wood chips going – Once they’re smoking like a California Hippie, toss the meat on the raise heating surface, sit back and enjoy the aroma as Sgt. Maitland’s smoker does its work.

smoker4The end result will be a Tri-tip, turkey, steak, chicken or burgers that taste so good; it makes you want to throw rocks and your granny’s cookin.

Enjoy – I hope it makes your next campout or BBQ’s better.



smoker 5


You newly commissioned 2Lts, and Cav Pilots – try to remember civilian ammo cans, made of anything but steel, will not work.

It is critical that you ensure there is no live ammo in the AMMO can before you drill holes or place it in the fire.

– Get an NCO to check your work.

You NCO’s pay attention!

Jack Daniels soaked wood chips are sold almost any grocery store – DO NOT just cut up a pallet from supply and soak the pieces in a bucket of JD or something the medics stilled up.

If you do, at least let someone else light it… and take pictures. And DO NOT don’t let your Privates drink what’s left in the soaking bucket.





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