TV show brings music artist to NTC

Country music artist Mark Wills filmed an episode of “Inside the Base” Aug. 1 and 2, 2022, at Fort Irwin, Calif.

The 10-episode reality-documentary series follows country music artists spending “a day in the life” at different U.S. military bases.

Rebecca Abrahams, executive producer for “Inside the Base,” called the show a “labor of love.”

“I wanted to produce a series that would support the U.S. military efforts and it’s my way of showing my patriotism by highlighting what the men and women do here at various military bases,” Abrahams said.

Army photograph by Kimberly Hackbarth
Mark Wills (center), country music artist, speaks with Capt. Pierce Watson, commander, A Troop, 1st Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, Aug. 2, at Fort Irwin, Calif., during the filming of an episode of “Inside the Base.” (Photo by Kimberly Hackbarth/ USAG Fort Irwin Public Affairs Office)

During the filming, Wills trained with Fort Irwin Soldiers, including the winners of the installation’s Best Quad competition and the winner of the U.S. Army’s Best Medic competition, and learned how to fire multiple weapons systems, provide basic medical care to a casualty, and clear a building.

Capt. Pierce Watson, commander, A Troop, 1st Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, guided Wills through the training and said the experience was different than he expected.

“Meeting the camera crew prior to the day of execution took a lot of the nerves away,” Watson said. “By the time Mark showed up, we were all very comfortable with the production crew and I think that let Mark get a more realistic view of the troopers.”

Mark Wills (second in stack), country music artist, prepares to clear a building, Aug. 2 at Fort Irwin, Calif., during a training exercise filmed for an episode of “Inside the Base.” (Photo by Kimberly Hackbarth/ USAG Fort Irwin Public Affairs Office)

The training culminated with an event that combined all the things Wills learned.

Running through the streets of Ujen, a town in the National Training Center’s training area, Wills and his team of Soldiers cleared buildings in search of a simulated enemy.

“I didn’t know it was going to be as intense,” Wills said of the experience. “Most of the time when you’re training, there’s a certain amount of ‘oh, it’s just training’ … but today was a completely different experience than I’d had anywhere else.”

Abrahams said they chose to film at Fort Irwin because it’s “incredibly special.”

“I felt that the American populace needed to understand that this is a training facility where … different battalions come through before they push off to desert conflict areas and it’s about as real as it’s going to get, so I think that definitely needs to be emphasized,” she said.

Mark Wills (center), country music artist, performs songs for Soldiers Aug. 2 at Fort Irwin, Calif. during the filming of an episode of “Inside the Base.” (Photo by Kimberly Hackbarth/ USAG Fort Irwin Public Affairs Office)

Music artists help draw an audience to the show and act as a conduit for viewers to better understand military life, according to Abrahams.

“[The music artists] are bringing the television viewer ‘Inside the Base’ to showcase what the men and women do at the different bases, and I’ve always said the base and the troops are the stars,” Abrahams said. “… and if this casts a wider net in terms of recruitment efforts because someone follows Mark Wills or another artist that’s featured in the series, and they see what they’re doing, maybe they’ll consider a career in the U.S. Armed Forces… if that happens, then we’ve done our job.”

Watson, a Portsmouth, Ohio native, said showing the training at Fort Irwin and NTC is an important mission.

“It’s important for the rest of the country to see what the military is doing to prepare its sons and daughters for the first fight of the next war,” Watson said. “Americans should see what their tax dollars are going toward and the people that it impacts.”

Courtesy photograph by Rebecca Abrahams
Rebecca Abrahams, executive producer, sits in a humvee Aug.2, before the filming of an episode of “Inside the Base” at Fort Irwin, Calif. (Courtesy photo by Rebecca Abrahams)

Wills said he agreed to be a part of the show and visit Fort Irwin because after making great friends with Soldiers he met while touring in Iraq and Afghanistan with the USO, he wanted to meet a new generation of Soldiers.

“Most of the young men and women that were the [opposing force] or on my team today, they weren’t even alive when 9/11 happened,” Wills said. “I had a team full of kids that can’t even drink legally, and that was kind of an eye-opening experience.”

Though he has always had a respect for the military with family members including his father and grandfather serving, the experience gave Wills an even greater respect, he said.

“These young men and women that are out here today, they’re just as devoted to protecting our freedom and fighting for our country as my generation was and the generation before me and the generation before that,” Wills said.

Courtesy photograph
Rebecca Abrahams (forefront center), executive producer, oversees the filming of an episode of “Inside the Base” Aug. 2, at Fort Irwin, Calif. (Courtesy photo by Rebecca Abrahams)

Respect for the military is one of Abrahams’ goals for the show, she said.

“My aim is for people to watch ‘Inside the Base’ and discover a newfound respect for those who serve and remember that we are all Americans, and the Soldiers showcased at the bases are protecting our rights,” Abrahams said.

“Inside the Base” is slated to premiere on Circle TV Network Oct. 1 at 9:30 p.m., CST, with Fort Irwin’s episode airing Nov. 26, 2022.

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