'Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,' military style

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Tommie Baker
  • 3rd Wing Public Affairs
Used to dealing with extremes in the Alaskan environment, nearly two dozen Airmen from Elmendorf Air Force Base and three Soldiers from Fort Richardson drove to North Pole, Alaska, to lend their assistance in building a home for a family in need. They were joined by more than 150 Airmen and Soldiers from Eielson AFB and Fort Wainwright.

North Pole residents Betsy Rogers, her nine children, her brother and his children all lived in a two-bedroom home. More than 300 friends and neighbors nominated the Rogers family for the ABC reality show, "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition." Television crews arrived July 8 to notify the family they had been selected for the show, and promised they would have a new dream home within a week. Producers anticipated needing nearly 1,000 volunteers to make it happen.

In the hours following, producers whisked the family away to a week-long vacation in Disneyland. During their absence, the crew and volunteers created a new home for the family.

The operation moved into full swing July 9 as the 900-square-foot home was demolished. Construction was around the clock throughout the week until July 14 at 9:30 p.m. when the new house was revealed to the family.

Hundreds of local volunteers, servicemembers and their families signed up for tasks, and local businesses donated the bulk of the materials.

The project took on an air of a military operation. The coordination, planning and logistics were immense.

"The idea of doing something like this, on this scale, is equal to a military movement," said Paul DiMeo, a carpenter and designer for the show.

The production crew found out very quickly that working in Alaska brings with it its own challenges and rewards.

"Doing work in Alaska makes it stand out," Mr. DiMeo said. "The extended daylight is phenomenal. It was nice to be able to work with so much sunlight."

The servicemembers who volunteered were proud of the role they played.

"We got the call for volunteers Friday morning (July 7)," said Tech. Sgt. Brenton Keay of the 3rd Mission Support Squadron. "By the end of the day, there were nearly two dozen people ready to head up there and help.

"We enjoyed all the tasks we got to help out on. We did everything from cutting lumber to planting flowers. We waxed floors and picked up trash, you name it … we did it. To see a project of this magnitude be completed in less than a week was overwhelming. Most of us plan to get together in September and watch the show," Sergeant Keay said.

"The Rogers Family" episode of "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" is scheduled to air Sept. 24 at 6 p.m.