By Staff Sgt. Matthew E. Winstead, U.S. Army Alaska Public AffairsNovember 19, 2011
JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska (Nov. 17, 2011) -- A television production company is looking for military family members to appear in a new show about military spouses in Alaska.
The company, 44 Blue Productions based in Los Angeles, is developing what it describes as a documentary series for the Oprah Winfrey Network.
The show, Army Wives of Alaska, is to focus on the real-world lives, struggles and sacrifices of military spouses stationed in the 49th state.
"This program will help to raise the awareness of the national community of the sense of duty that the family has, as well as the Soldiers in uniform," said Army Lt. Col. John Clearwater, film and television liaison for Army public affairs in Los Angeles.
The production company is scheduled to meet with spouses in Alaska the week of Nov. 28.
The show came about, in part, due to the efforts of Stephanie Woodard, whose husband, Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Brian "Clint" Woodard, is a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter pilot with Company A, 1st Battalion, 52nd Aviation Regiment at Fort Wainwright, Alaska.
"I found information on an old casting for a show that never launched and asked if they were still looking for volunteer cast [members]," she said. "They said 'no,' but I started talking about some of the wives' experiences anyway and they got interested."
It's important for military families to be able to tell their stories to the public, Woodard said, especially in an era of repeated deployments.
"Yes, there are tough times. Yes, there are fears that naturally come with a deployment, but the close bonds you can form with other military families are unique and will get you through those times," she added. "No matter how hard someone tries, you just can't get that kind of understanding from someone who has never been in that situation."
After several phone calls and meetings with producers, the Army warmed up to the idea, Woodard said. Eventually, Army public affairs granted approval for 44 Blue to cast volunteers for the show.
The show is the first of its kind to be approved for production on a military installation, Clearwater said.
"This is a cutting-edge project," he said. "There hasn't been a program similar to this at any time previously within the Army. This is an opportunity to show the nation just how much effort our military families contribute to the service of their Soldiers. It's a commitment just as deep as [that of] any service member."
It is also a commitment that many Soldiers say they couldn't do without.
"My wife has been an invaluable asset to me," said Staff Sgt. Germaine Pitt, a section chief for the fuel platoon assigned to Company A, 725th Brigade Support Battalion. "She has always been supportive. I couldn't be as successful as I am without her."
Stephanie Drachkovitch, one of the co-founders of 44 Blue, is uniquely qualified to help portray military families in Alaska. The daughter of a career Army officer, Drachkovitch lived in Alaska, her mother's home state, while her father served in Vietnam.
"My mother and father actually met while he was stationed up there in Alaska during his first assignment there," Drachkovitch said. "Alaska is a beautiful area and I just so happen to know a little bit about the kind of bonds people can make while living there, which is just one of the many reasons I think the show will resonate with viewers."
Drachkovitch said she wants to see as many people apply for the casting as possible.
"We expect to, ultimately, cast the same number of families from each area [Fort Wainwright and Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson] in the end," she said, "so everyone should feel free to still apply."
Many of the wives are doing just that. Traci Moran, whose husband, Spc. Jared Moran, is a paralegal representative for 1st Squadron, 40th Cavalry Regiment, has submitted her application in the hopes of getting a positive message out to the public.
"I wanted to make sure that we help show a true portrayal of a real Army wife," Moran said. "We're not all about drama and scandal. We're not completely helpless while our husbands are deployed either. We are strong, independent and able to fill the roles of our husbands while they're away.
"I want to do my part and help show how we hold things together while they're gone," she added.
The show's producers say they hope there will be more families who are willing to share their stories.