JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. –
Approximately six months ago, the Langley First Sergeant counsel came together to discuss a new project idea. This idea revolved around taking the first sergeant rooms at JBLE-Langley and transforming them into homier places for Airmen in emergency situations to stay. This project was called the “diamond dorms”.
It is not uncommon for bases to have first sergeant rooms, sometimes known as hospitality rooms. While the rooms can vary in the way they are utilized, one common use is for Airmen in emergency situations and in need of a safe place to stay. JBLE-Langley has four rooms used for that purpose.
“Everybody’s mental health is important,” said Master Sgt. Jesse Chism, 633d Comptroller Squadron and Wing Staff Agencies first sergeant. “You cannot perform the mission effectively unless your mental health is in a good state. Making sure our people get the help they need is beneficial to mission readiness.”
According to Senior Master Sgt. Emily Mandarich, 1st Maintenance Squadron first sergeant, one of her Airman at the base she was previously stationed was a victim of sexual assault. The Airman’s assailant was her roommate and she had lived with him for six months, suffering in silence, not knowing what to do. She would lock herself inside her room, only leaving for work. She did not feel safe.
This Airman decided to file an unrestricted report.
“Prior to (filing the report), she called me to ask if I had any options to provide her a place to go so she wouldn’t have to be in the home when the accused was notified of being under investigation,” said Mandarich. “She had been worried about tipping off her perpetrator, so not having to pack toiletries, food and other accessories was a necessity. We were able to utilize one of our first sergeant rooms, bring her into a safe space and provide everything she would need for a few days until she could return safely to her home to gather her things.”
“All those things had made the difference,” said the Airman. “It was the first time I could sleep in six months.”
Because of this experience, when someone suggested to make the first sergeant rooms more comfortable, Mandarich was 100 percent on board with the diamond dorms project and wondered why no one had thought to do this sooner.
Months of planning and collaboration brought the diamond dorms being refurnished and decorated to fruition, helping Airmen feel comfortable and safe during trying circumstances. On June 1, 2022, the diamond dorms were announced and ready to take in Airmen in need.
“These rooms provide a safe place so that Airmen can recoup and recover,” said Chism. “By pulling a member out of an emergency situation and providing these rooms, we want them to feel safe and not think about what they’re going through at the moment.”
Prioritizing the safety of Airmen is a primary concern for all first sergeants. Contact information for all of the helping agencies on base were listed in each of the diamond dorms. According to Mandarich, first sergeants are working to procure a safety plan and help them either get back into their home or find a safe alternative during the 72 hours Airmen are able to stay.
“I think it’s really important to the base and community because everyone hopes they don’t get into an emergency situation, but if they find themselves in one, I think we would all want the same kind of treatment,” said Mandarich. “If an Airman is in a really dark place and the diamond dorms can bring a little bit of brightness into it, I think that’s fantastic. It’s important for people to know we have a place for someone to stay when they are in an emergency.”
To learn more information or if you are in need of use of the diamond dorms, please reach out to your unit’s first sergeant.