Combining love for theater and military


Cadet Brittney Martin, Cadet Keeley Augsburger (sitting) and Cadet Ashlee Schirripa

Lauren Phillips

Devotion, intensity and spirit sum up the word passion. Senior Army ROTC cadet and theater major, Keeley Augsburger, sees passion in both her Army ROTC and theater life.

“I think the most memorable thing with the similarities of both programs: they are both full of passionate people. The way people lift each other up is memorable,” Augsburger said.

Augsburger finds that within both programs she is involved, there will always be people who have a passion for what they are doing. That is what carries her to do her best as a cadet and as an assistant stage manger.

Augsburger came to Kent State in 2012 as a business major but quickly changed majors after speaking to her military science instructor, Captain Stephanie Crawford. Crawford asked a simple question, “Why are you making yourself miserable?”

That same day Augsburger went to her advisor and changed her major to theater studies.

Augsburger fell in the love with the arts when she worked on productions at her high school and at her community.

Since she switched majors, Augsburger stands behind the curtain as assistant stage manager. She has helped with four Kent State productions: “Dance,” “You Can’t Take it with You,” “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” and “Bonnie and Clyde.”

“‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was my favorite ever. The director was so cool and he had a vision for the production. The duality of man and how he emphasized that was amazing,” Augsburger said.

Due to Army ROTC, Augsburger couldn’t be the stage manager this semester, but she’s looking forward to the spring, when she will return to the stage.

“It’s basically the same task of taking groups of people in different factions to accomplish a mission,” Augsburger thought at the time.

A few weeks before high school gradation, Augsburger received an email from National Guard recruiters about paying college tuition if one joins. She liked the idea of discipline but was terrified to join. The idea of military service kept popping up in her head, and while searching the Kent website she found the ROTC program.

“I can try it and if I don’t like it, I’ll join the Navy, even though I can’t swim,” Augsburger said she was thinking at the time.

She didn’t tell her mom (Vicky Martin) about joining. It was kept a secret until about a week before she signed her contract, but then her dad accidentally leaked the news. Her mom was nervous mostly because of the danger that comes with military service.

“She’s still nervous. She says she’ll never be able to sleep again,” Augsburger said. “I’m an only child, so she’s super overprotective.”

Martin said she was concerned about her daughter because she didn’t really know the details of the ROTC program. She thought Augsburger would be fighting on the front lines of the Army, but now her outlook is more positive.

“I couldn’t be more proud of her decision,” Martin said.

Augsburger spoke highly about the excitement and challenges she gets to participate in through the Army ROTC.

Since joining the ROTC program in 2012, they have rappelled off at 75-foot tower, jumped in a swimming pool with gear on and learned how to deploy grenades.

“This summer I got to hang out with physiological operations at Fort Bragg, an Army base in Fayetteville, North Carolina. They are airborne so I got to go up and watch them jump,” Augsburger said.

Augsburger wonders what would have been different had she never joined ROTC. She would have never met her fiancé, Brandon Wood.

She met Wood through another cadet in the program. He later transferred to the University of Akron to be close to her. Their wedding is set for June 2016.

“If I had to explain how I felt about Keeley’s military career, I’d say that I find it equal parts nerve-wracking and inspiring,” Wood said. “There’s always this looming sense of uncertainty when thinking about the future. What will her role be? Where will they send her? Will she be safe?”

Wood said the Army ROTC program has been overly beneficial to Augsburger. She doesn’t get weighed down with pressure or the unknown. Augsburger tries to push everyone to improve in any way they can.

“It can be difficult to keep that in mind when she’s pushing you to try harder, but I know that for everything she’s improved through the ROTC program, I’ve improved thanks to her,” Wood said.

Augsburger is set to graduate in May 2016. After graduation she will commission as a 2nd Lt. in the Army. She will go to specialized Army training called BOLC, Basic Officer Leadership Course.

The location of the course will depend on which Army branch or Army career she will go into. Infantry, intelligence, ordinance, engineering or aviation are just a few of the various Army branches. Augsburger hopes to be assigned to the human resources branch.

“I’ve always wanted to help people… I don’t want soldiers worrying about their pay. If someone’s sitting in the middle of the field, you don’t want them to worry if their family is getting paid,” Augsburger said.

After BOLC, she will be assigned a duty station. She hopes to make it to Germany at some point during her Army career.

“Keeley thrives under pressure. She’s a go-getter. She doesn’t give up,” Martin said. “She’s something, and I’m very proud of her.”

Lauren Phillips is the military and veterans reporter. Contact her at [email protected]