JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. – More than 30 military spouses from Joint Base Lewis-McChord were selected to participate in a focus group session with the writers of the Lifetime network television show Army Wives at the JBLM Family Readiness Center, Oct. 12, 2012.
The show ended its sixth season with the most junior couple joining the officer ranks and changing duty stations. The writers of the show hope to present a younger demographic of enlisted soldiers and their families for the seventh season, utilizing the setting of a joint base, similar to JBLM.
In addition to rejuvenating the existing cast with more enlisted families, the writers plan on introducing cast members that would represent the Air Force.
“We came specifically to Lewis-McChord to understand how a joint command situation works.” said Jeff Melvoin, an executive producer of the show.
Although the writers have been working closely with the Department of Defense for authenticity, they wanted to sit down with the wives of both branches and get their stories.
There were focus groups for both the Army and Air Force wives. The groups were divided into three categories; junior-enlisted wives, senior-enlisted wives, and officers’ wives.
Army Maj. Alain M. Polynice, the coordinator of the event, said holding a focus group is the military’s opportunity to highlight the different demographics and better tell the military story.
The writers gave the groups the opportunity to give their backgrounds, and tell their personal stories and experiences with the military. The spouses gave feedback on where they would like the show to go.
Many of the spouses said they would like to see the show go in the direction of telling more about the effects of deployments and the everyday adversities in military life.
Crystle Jenson, wife of medically-retired Army Pfc. Alvin Jenson, said she hopes the show will shed light on retired military families more.
“When you tell people your husband is disabled, they think he’s going to be in a wheel chair… and that’s just not the case,” said Jenson.
She added, just because you can’t physically see a disability, doesn’t mean it’s not present.
“Our major focus is to look at the military as the prism of being married to the military,” said Melvoin.
He explained that they want to show the wives’ experiences of being part of the military. He said they try to emphasize the wives’ sacrifices, humor, friendships and stress they endure being married into the military.
Melvoin said the larger message is conveying what military families are doing for this country.
“We can’t always get all the details right,” he said. “What we hope to capture is that’s how it feels, and that’s more important.”
Army Sgt. 1st Class Diana Istre, 56th Multi-functional Medical Battalion, is also an Army wife. Istre said she has never seen the show and would like the writers to think about dual-military families and how resilient their children are.
“I think the writers are great,” Istre said. “I don’t know how the joint base is going to be depicted, but it sounds interesting.”
Istre added that she doesn’t know what the show portrays, but she thinks they should celebrate the diversity the military has.
After participating in the focus group, Istre said she plans on watching the show and getting spun up on it before the next season.
Many of the spouses are excited for the next season to begin. Some of the spouses said they could relate to the characters and enjoy watching the characters transformation into strong women.
“Our overall theme is these women are heroes in their own way,” said Melvion. “It’s their reliance on one another, and their own individual courage and strength that gets them through.”
The show’s seventh season is scheduled to premiere on the Lifetime television network in 2013.