UNCP Army ROTC graduate pursues military nursing career

Second Lt. Keely Jones Aliseo
Second Lt. Keely Jones Aliseo

The nursing program at UNC Pembroke can be challenging for the average college student––but Keely Jones isn’t your average student. Jones aced the program, graduating with honors last May and doing so as an Army ROTC cadet––which is no cakewalk.

Additionally, the newly commissioned second lieutenant completed both programs while taking advanced courses, conducting undergraduate research and service-learning courses as a member of the Maynor Honors College.

The Pembroke native has always managed to push through challenges. During her sophomore year, she was the top cadet––out of 650––at an Army ROTC Advanced Camp, a mandatory summer military training at Fort Knox, Ky.

An average week consisted of early morning physical training (PT), lectures, and eight-hour clinicals. If that wasn’t enough, she became Mrs. Keely Jones Aliseo during her junior year. Her husband, Andrew, a second lieutenant in the National Guard, graduated from UNCP and is currently a graduate student.

Self-discipline and hard work were the keys to her success as a nursing cadet, which can be physically and emotionally demanding. Aliseo understands the commitment to be an Army nurse and credits her ROTC cadre and nursing instructors with teaching her the leadership and assessment skills she will use with her future patients.

“Nursing and ROTC are big on leadership,” she said. “Being a good leader means you are a good follower. It’s not about being the most outspoken person in the room. It’s leading from the front and setting a good example.” 

In May, Aliseo was uniquely honored at three ceremonies––a nursing pinning, ROTC commissioning and undergraduate commencement.

Dr. Jennifer Jones-Locklear, nursing program director, said Jones stood out as a natural leader in the program, which she attributes to her ROTC training.

“Her classmates gravitated to her for guidance and leadership ability,” Jones-Locklear said. “She organized and prioritized the task in front of her, sought assistance and guidance when needed, and placed the needs of others before her own, exemplifying the qualities one seeks in a leader.”

Aliseo will continue her training in August at Fort Sam Houston, where she will embark on another challenge––a 10-week Basic Officer Leader Course (BOLC). Her goal is to return to school to become a family nurse practitioner. In the meantime, she is serving as a Gold Bar Recruiter stationed at Fort Liberty.

Aliseo––whose mother and sister are both nurses––got introduced to nursing through health science courses in high school.

“It was a nice transition to UNCP,” she said. “I felt very comfortable on campus from day one, part of that was because my sister graduated from the (McKenzie-Elliott) School of Nursing program in 2021.

“The McKenzie-Elliott School of Nursing was challenging at times, but it taught me the art of being flexible. I had so many great professors who were influential and passionate about nursing. Seeing how they cared about their students showed me how I need to care for my patients that way. The faculty is there for their students,” Aliseo said.

“We always talk about the diverse student body, but so many of our professors come to UNCP from all over and are educated from different parts of the world. I learned so much from my professors that I carry with me.”