Junior Ashley Brigham wears two different uniforms—one with combat boots, the other with pompoms.
Brigham trains with Army ROTC in the mornings and heads to cheerleading practice at the end of the day. Brigham came to Duke on the ROTC scholarship, but did not know she would cheer for the Blue Devils until after she arrived.
“It’s extremely interesting to have two groups of friends who are so different and share a lot in common with them,” Brigham said.
Brigham said the most valuable aspect of both ROTC and cheerleading is the people she is surrounded by. She values the time spent on the road traveling with her cheer teammates and the bonding associated with hours of ROTC training.
Brigham’s friend and cheer teammate Cindy Choi, a junior, said Brigham has demonstrated her commitment to both squads.
“She is so giving and loyal to her friends,” Choi said. “She always puts her team’s needs first before her own.”
The army is not something new to the Brigham family. Ashley said her decision to apply for the ROTC scholarship was heavily influenced by her family. Many relatives on her mother’s side have joined the Army, but Brigham said she was inspired most by her cousin who currently serves as a nurse in the Army.
“I applied for the ROTC scholarship before I knew I was applying to Duke,” Brigham said. “I made sure Duke had an ROTC program.”
Brigham made the decision to cheer at Duke during her first semester of freshman year when she decided she wanted to do more than just ROTC. Although both organizations have large time commitments, Brigham said she is able to juggle both because they rarely overlap.
One important skill she has gained from being involved in both cheer and ROTC is time management, she said.
“I have to stay on top of things,” Brigham said. “I can’t let anything fall behind.”
If Brigham is ever stressed, her ROTC “battle buddy”—a partner assigned to every soldier in the U.S. Army—Alex Schade has not seen it.
“She’s achieved so much at Duke between cheer and ROTC,” said Schade, a junior. “She’s at the top of our ROTC class, and I admire her.”
After graduation, Brigham is obligated to complete four years each of active and inactive service in the army. She also said she hopes to find time in the future to coach a middle school cheerleading squad.
“She is a much quieter leader than most people think ROTC kids are,” Schade said. “She handles everything with grace and poise.”