Operation Smokehouse modernizes Army fire support

By Monica WoodApril 29, 2024

Soldiers testing handheld call for fire
Sgt. 1st Class Dirk Faison uses a handheld controller to get unmanned aerial systems camera feed to call for fire during Operation Smokehouse at Fort Sill's Thompson Hill Range Complex. Integrating UAV camera feed to a call for fire and transmitting digitally back to the Fire Support Team improves the survivability and effectiveness of forward observers in large-scale combat operations. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Monica Wood) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT SILL, Okla. - The legacy of Fort Sill's early fire support pioneers continues to evolve with Operation Smokehouse, a pivotal initiative aimed at modernizing fire support capabilities in the Army. The recent 2024 Fires Capabilities Development and Integration Directorate Fire Support Human Machine Integration Enhancement Exercise, held from April 8 to 18 at Fort Sill, marks a significant step forward in this transformation effort.

According to Maj. Matthew Huff, Fires CDID acquisition officer, Operation Smokehouse represents a fundamental shift in how fire support is conducted, leveraging advancements in technology to enhance the speed and precision of call for fires and forward observing capabilities.

"It is really a sort of a transformation of how we do fire support," said Huff. "This isn't new to Fort Sill and it's not new to the fire support community. Over 100 years ago, fire support was pioneering how we adjust fire and do the fire support mission ā€” with hot air balloons."

Sgt. 1st Class Warren Bridenthal, a senior instructor at the Field Artillery Schoolhouse on Fort Sill, stated, "During this exercise we are integrating uncrewed aerial vehicles camera feeds to call for fire and transmit digitally back to the fire support team.

"The ability to use this capability during large-scale combat operations is going to be very important for forward observers," said Bridenthal. "We're putting ourselves out there to help integrate fires and keep the maneuver force safe. I think the integration of uncrewed aircraft system assets will allow us to stay further back, do our job safer and make processes faster."

Operation Smokehouse represents a continuation of Fort Sill's legacy in pioneering fire support tactics leveraging past lessons to propel fire support capabilities into the 21st century.

"Today I see a lot of parallels in how Soldiers in the 20th century used the most current and out-of-the-box thinking with hot air balloons to see further and how we are using technology to support beyond line-of-sight and fire support integration,ā€ noted Huff.

Huff, who has personal ties to the Fort Sill community, expressed his satisfaction with being part of Operation Smokehouse. "I have just really enjoyed being a part of Operation Smokehouse. I was born and raised in the Lawton-Fort Sill area, and it makes it that much more special," he said. "Iā€™m impressed with the professionalism of the military personnel and the dedicated civil servants who make up the fires community.

We have the right people with talent, skills and focus to really transform fire support."

Operation Smokehouse embodies Fort Sill's commitment to innovation and adaptation, ensuring that its fire support capabilities remain at the forefront of modern warfare. As the Army continues to face evolving threats in a Multidomain environment, initiatives like Operation Smokehouse play a crucial role in maintaining overmatch and readiness on the battlefield.