By Barbara Gersna, 1st Theater Sustainment Command Public Affairs
1st Theater Sustainment Command
A Soldier serving in the 1st Theater Sustainment Command at Fort Knox, Kentucky was recently crowned United States of America Ms. Kentucky 2022 at a pageant held Oct. 24 in Tifton, Georgia.
Master Sgt. Diana D. Layne, executive assistant for the command sergeant major of the 1st TSC, officially received her crown at the USOA Georgia pageant, because Kentucky did not hold an in-person pageant due to COVID-19 pandemic conditions.
Layne described being crowned as a magical moment for her. “It was overwhelming to have someone crown me,” she said.
The master sergeant, who is a unit supply specialist by trade, elected to make her platform for the pageant “being the voice of domestic violence, especially for those who are re-victimized and labeled as the assaulter,” she said. It was her own experience as a domestic violence survivor that led her to select this platform.
For the Ms. Kentucky pageant Layne was nominated and interviewed with the USOA pageant judges via Zoom. She was judged 100% on her personal interview. Before the pandemic, the personal interview contributed to 50% of the total points with the other 25% coming from the evening gown competition and 25% from the swimsuit competition.
Layne ultimately won over the judges with her attitude, achievements, volunteerism, resiliency, character, community service, and military service.
No stranger to the pressures of competition, Layne was also crowned Miss Washington Fitness 2021, competing and winning this fitness pageant when she was stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McCord, Washington.
Born and raised in Trinidad and Tobago – the home of the limbo dance, she moved to Brooklyn at age 14 and graduated third in her high school senior class. Layne has one son, Michael, who attends school in Trinidad and lives with his great grandmother.
She shared that her mother was strict with her as a kid and that she was often bullied at school in Trinidad.
“Kids told me that I wasn’t pretty enough to compete in a pageant and they made fun of my appearance and my hair,” Layne said.
Layne was also told that she wasn’t thin enough to compete in pageants. That pushed her into bouts with eating disorders when she was younger.
“I am who I am today because of the struggles I’ve been through in my life,” she shared.
Layne believes that overcoming these hurdles have contributed to her resiliency.
“Sometimes we have to go through struggles to be the people we can be and achieve our goals,” she said. “My mother taught me not to give up, and to fight for what I want in life. She also taught me to help others along the way.”
Layne is a self-proclaimed “protector of people.” She enjoys volunteering and helping those less-fortunate or in need.
“I’ve served food to homeless people under bridges or wherever they live,” she explained.
She has also volunteered with the organization Feeding America and has fed Soldiers living in the barracks. Layne encourages everyone to volunteer in some way in their community.
“Your character is determined by how you are in your community,” the master sergeant said.
She believes that we all have something and a little time to give to help others.
Despite earning eight academic and three dance scholarships, Layne followed her instincts at 18 and decided to join the Army instead of going to college.
“I wanted my independence and to leave home and take care of myself,” she said.
She believed that she would eventually get that from graduating from college and having a career, but saw that she could achieve that goal sooner by joining the Army.
During her 21 years serving in the U.S. Army, she has deployed twice to Iraq and twice to Afghanistan. She even served as an Advanced Individual Training instructor for her military occupational specialty and as a drill sergeant for Basic Combat Training.
“Being a drill sergeant was one of my favorite jobs,” Layne shared. “I was a stickler for detail and tough, but I didn’t really have to be hard on them though; I was able to teach, coach, and help the young Soldiers make better choices.”
As a drill sergeant, Layne taught her trainees everything she knew. She even stays in contact with many of the Soldiers she has influenced during her time serving.
“I am happy to see so many of them doing well and succeeding, whether it’s still in service or as civilians,” she said.
That was one of the messages she shared with young Soldiers, especially when faced with the choice of re-enlisting or completing one tour with the Army.
“If you cannot be happy serving in the Army, then do your time and move on,” the master sergeant emphasized.
The senior noncommissioned officer is also passionate about helping younger Soldiers who make a mistake but want to continue their careers in the Army. She believes that everyone deserves a second chance and that we can all learn from our mistakes.
“We should give Soldiers a chance to heal and grow if they make a mistake,” she said.
Layne believes that they can get back on track if we give them a reason to want to get there. That’s why Layne cannot emphasize enough the importance of good leadership. She considers herself fortunate to get the job serving as the executive assistant for Command Sgt. Maj Michael J. Perry III, senior enlisted advisor, 1st TSC.
“I was in the right place at the right time,” she said.
Speaking about Perry, Layne said, “I get to learn from the best as I prepare to attend sergeant major school.”
She shared that Perry advocates for resiliency and is a great leader. He also works to influence change as much as he can. Layne manages the command sergeant major’s calendar and ensures that he gets his battlefield rotation.
In addition to competing in pageants, Layne’s other hobbies include physical fitness and nutrition.
“I bring healthy meals to eat for lunch every day,” she said.
The NCO enjoys sharing her knowledge to help others achieve their health goals too. Layne said that our kids don’t know what they’re eating, which sparked one of her long-term goals to have a community place for young kids and teenagers to learn about healthy eating and fitness.
“I want to encourage young people to be healthy and teach them how to get there and then stay fit,” she said.
Layne said that her love of country and service is why she continues to serve in the Army. She became a citizen early in her career, and that it took a long time.
“I did not join to become a citizen,” she proclaimed. “It took many years and a lot of money,” the master sergeant said.
In addition to living by the Warrior Ethos, Layne also lives by the “golden rule.” She treats others the way she wants to be treated. That’s what she looks for in a partner too.\
Layne has goals in life and would like to find someone with similar goals that they can reach together. She is willing to compromise to get there, but he must also be willing to compromise.
“I also want a partner who accepts me as I am,” she said.
Layne has a message for anyone working toward a goal. “Don’t give up on your dreams. Whether your dream is to compete in a pageant or marathon,” she encouraged.
She recommends that you research, ask questions and keep your dreams alive – no matter what they are. Stay determined.
“If I have a goal and the right mind set, nothing can stop me,” she said.
Layne also shared her love for her Army family. “My Army family always shows up for me,” she emphasized. She is overwhelmed with the congratulations and support she’s received from them.
She will compete for the national title of Ms. USOA at a pageant in Las Vegas in February 2022 where the theme is patriotism.
U.S. ARMY RESERVE
DEPT. OF DEFENSE
U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND
DEPT. OF HOMELAND SECURITY
BEST WARRIOR COMPETITION