FORT BELVOIR, Va. (Army News Service, Dec. 4, 2007) — At first glance, Michaela Streitfield, 16, seems like a typical teenager, but those who watch the Today Show on Dec. 7 will learn she's anything but.
Her mother, Master Sgt. Lynette Streitfield, has recently returned from a year-long deployment in Iraq as an active-duty member of the National Guard. During that time, Michaela and her father, Bob Streitfield, lived in George Washington Village without their mother and wife.
That's why NBC's Today Show decided to feature Michaela as one of several teens in a series about kids from different walks of life.
"They wanted me to document what is special about living on (an Army base)," Michaela said. "I participated because I felt that I should share my story. I wanted to show people that living on a military base isn't so bad, and that having my mom deployed was not bad either; it just made me even more proud of her and other soldiers."
In mid August, a producer from the television show came to Fort Belvoir and gave Michaela a hand-held video camera and a tri-pod to document her life.
So she documented her everyday activities, like hanging out with her friends at the Belvoir Bowling Alley, Starbucks and Tompkins Basin, and attending the annual Oktoberfest celebration.
"I enjoyed video taping," she said. "In all, I've sent nine one-hour video tapes."
The show also asked her to include video journals, where she discussed her feelings about her living situation.
"It's been - I don't even know the word for it; it's been enlightening," she said. "It's feels good to know I'll be letting other people know what it's like to live on a military base."
This wasn't the first time her mother deployed. Lynette has been in the military for 18 years and has deployed to Panama and Honduras during her career.
Michaela and her father adjusted to the deployments by staying busy and getting into a regular routine.
"Her mom is her hero," Mr. Streitfield said. "We're proud of what she does and glad that she's doing it."
In addition to her own video taping, NBC camera crews and correspondent, Natalie Morales, came to Fort Belvoir three times. They brought cameramen, cameras, lighting equipment and a sound board that took one and one-half hours to set up and tear down.
"You couldn't walk through the house," Mr. Streitfield said jokingly.
"My room looked three times smaller that it was," Michaela said. "It was very interesting to see what goes on behind the scenes."
In Michaela's room alone there were three cameras, two cameramen, and white sheets hanging on the walls while she and Ms. Morales, also a military child, sat on her bed and talked.
The second time the show came they wanted to tape Michaela doing the things she normally does, like getting off the bus at Starbucks. Although Michaela regularly hangs out a Starbucks, she doesn't ride the school bus there, which caused several problems.
First, the bus driver wouldn't let her get on the bus. She explained the situation, but he didn't believe her. Finally, he let her on the bus, but when they arrived, kids swarmed the cameramen, so they had to stage several shots of her getting off the bus.
"After all that, the bus driver said, 'I finally believe you,'" Michaela said laughing.
"It's amazing what goes into a little segment," Mr. Streitfield said.
Despite the hectic nature of some of the video shoots, Michaela said she never felt any stress, even during the last days before her mother's return.
"It was actually fun. We talked and joked with the camera men and I got to see what goes on behind the scenes," she said. "My mom's return was a stress reliever."
The crew concluded its coverage by taping her mother's return ceremony at Davidson Army Airfield and conducting final interviews with the Streitfields at home.
Mr. Streitfield said it was a good learning experience for Michaela, and she agreed.
"It had a positive impression on me: it made me think of how to live my life instead of letting it pass me by," Michaela said. "I am glad I did this because it was a great experience, and I was able to capture my life on tape; that doesn't always happen. I hope viewers have a better understanding of military life. I cannot wait to see the final product."