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NEWS | April 3, 2024

Finding a community in the dorms

By Airman 1st Class Ian Sullens 633d PA

When I arrived at Langley, I was placed in the Airy Hall dorms, which consisted of a bed, a desk, and four walls. I remember the first night in my dorm. It was a rough night. Believe it or not, that night in September 2022 was the first time in my life that I had truly been alone when it was time to sleep. At home in Hallsville, Texas, I shared a room with three brothers. In basic military training, I shared a bay with 20 other guys. Even at technical training school, I had a roommate. I quickly realized, the sounds of breathing and the rustling of clothes and covers usually helped me fall asleep. The first night in my dorm at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, the silence pressed down on me, and I felt truly alone.

This was really embarrassing. I’d ask myself, “What kind of person can’t fall asleep by themselves?”  

After a couple of sleepless weeks, I solved the problem of my exhaustion. If I can’t fall asleep without someone nearby, I’ll just make it seem like there are other people in the room. I played podcasts so there was some noise besides me shifting restlessly. Not the most elegant solution, I know, but it got the job done.

Unfortunately, the podcasts were just treating a symptom of the sickness, not the root cause.

The Airy Hall dorms are filled with hundreds of other Airmen. How many did I interact with on a daily basis? The answer is simple, none. I wanted to get to know people; I wanted a community.

Looking to find a solution to my loneliness, I joined several of the dorm group chats.

Then, one day, through the dorm chat, I learned about Thrive Thursday. Thrive Thursday is an event hosted by the JBLE Chaplain office. Every third Thursday of the month, they have free food and games in the courtyard between the dorms. It turns out free food was the one sure fire way to gather a group of dorm residents.

Immediately, I made a mental note to attend the event and was hopeful for the first time to meet other Airmen outside of work. Sure enough, when the third Thursday of the month rolled around, out came the dorm Airmen, like moths to a flame. It was there I met my friend group.

For their privacy, I’ll call them Rack, Shack, and Benny. Every time I showed up to a dorm event, I would see them there. Shack was undoubtedly the leader of our little group and constantly spearheaded events. Eventually, we started hanging out. And just like that, I had a community. When I’d climb into bed after an afternoon of chatting with my friends, even though I still use a podcast to fall asleep, the weight on my shoulders was gone. 

We added a new Airman to our ranks to ensure he didn’t run across the same loneliness I did. Now I currently boast four lifelong friends that I would never have met if not for the dorms.

I am thankful for my time at Airy Hall because without the dorms, I never would have met my friends.

If you find yourself in the dorms feeling listless, despondent, or lonely, there is a way through it. I challenge those Airmen to be proactive. Find ways to leave the dorms and meet new people. You might not be able to change the dorms, but you can change your perspective. Go out and meet your Rack, Shack, and Benny. Your life is what you make of it, get out there and make the most of it.