Annapolis -- High noon on a sunny football Saturday: In Tecumseh Court, heart of the U.S. Naval Academy campus, midshipmen pour into the square and the milling chaos of some 4,000 young men and women is quickly transformed into sharp marching formation.
"STAFF, FALL IN." In the middle of the square, the loud, commanding bellow comes from the smallest person there.
"ATTEN-HUT!" The midshipmen, resplendent in service dress blues, stand straight, heads locked forward.
"PRESENT ARMS!" And 4,000 men and women salute Juliane Gallina, whose 62 inches may be among the least in the group, but whose authoritative presence clearly demonstrates that stature is measured by more than inches.
As brigade commander at the Naval Academy, Juliane Gallina is at the top rank of a rigid chain of command. She describes her place as the "tip of a funnel," through which all student ideas and complaints are filtered to the officers, and vice versa. Her duties run the gamut from personal to ceremonial: She sits on review boards, she barks out commands, she leads parades.
Midshipman Gallina, 21 and a senior, is the first woman ever to hold this job, a fact she wishes people didn't always emphasize.
She'd rather they pay more attention to performance than gender. But she knows she is a curiosity, not the least because of sexism charges that have been leveled against the Navy in recent years. "Things are a lot better now," she says of changes she's observed in the past two years since a female classmate resigned from the academy after being chained to a urinal and photographed by a group of male midshipmen.
Rather than gender, that incident was more a problem of midshipmen lacking "mutual respect" for each other, she suggests, just as she downplays the role of gender in her own leadership.
"I haven't forged any new ground for women except that I'm an example," she said in a recent interview. "An example that women are performers, not just to minimum standards but with distinction. There are women like that in every company. I have been lucky enough to perform a little above that and to have been put in a leadership position."
"FORWARD MARCH." With the surge of the marching band for accompaniment, Juliane Gallina leads unswervingly. Her eyes look straight ahead, her 102-pound frame stands tall, hair pulled back from her face in a severe French braid, expression stern. Well, mostly stern, most of the time.
This Saturday march takes the midshipmen across the leaf-strewn brick walks of the campus and through the streets of Annapolis to Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, about a mile away. Ms. Gallina salutes some officers along the route, waves ++ to some of the children who have gathered in clusters.
"Say 'Go Navy!' " she says out of the side of her mouth to a group of children just outside the academy gates. "Go Navy!" the kids scream, and she rewards them by tossing a handful of candy into the gathering.
For those not familiar with this academy tradition of showering candy onto young well-wishers along the parade route, this is an unexpected sweetness, a warm and personal note in the midst of military formality. (It's not unexpected for the kids, who carry baskets and are likely to get as much candy on the day of a home Navy game as they get trick-or-treating.)
And for Juliane Gallina, marching out in front, allowing hints of a smile to play around her lips as the children cheer, it is part of the diversely textured fabric of the life at the Naval Academy she has come to love.
Born in Manhattan, raised in Westchester County, Juliane Gallina has moved through life with a distinctive sureness of purpose. She tells a story about when she was 5 and her parents took her and her older sister to a nice restaurant to polish their manners.
"The maitre d' came over, looked down his nose at me," she remembers, "and said, 'And what would the young lady like to order?' I looked up at him and said, 'How big are the lobsters?'
"It really floored him, but my mom says that's pretty much the way I've always been."
When Ms. Gallina speaks of the forces that drew her to the Naval Academy, she speaks of a quest for integrity and honor, a desire to serve. "There were some experiences that I went through as a kid, some family things that convinced me that without honor a person is worthless," she says.
She declines to be more specific. But one of her most formative experiences had to have been when she was 7 and her father was murdered.
Gino E. Gallina -- a one-time Manhattan assistant district attorney who had turned to private law practice -- was shot to death in Greenwich Village in what newspaper accounts at the time described as a "mob-style attack." His murder has never been solved.
Ms. Gallina skitters away from questions about how her father's death affected her. But when talking about what an emotional experience being a commander can be, she opens up enough to reveal a glimpse of the tough yet traumatized 7-year-old she used to be.
"Nope," she says, she never gets tears in her eyes. "That was one of those resolutions that I made when I was 7 and my dad died. I made the resolution that I would never cry again, ever. Of course, you can't keep that, it doesn't work, but I try not to cry."
If her father's death left a gap in her life, there was no gap in parenting, she says. "My mother was my father and my mother. My mom taught me a lot about duty and service to one's community, about being a good citizen."
"I was trained that way myself," says Marie Gallina, who is a librarian in a public school in the South Bronx, a drug-ridden, gang-infested battlefield of a neighborhood. "I've been lucky with Julie. She's a kid who's always listened and she would learn by listening."
"She certainly developed the habit of service while she was in high school," says Alice Grant, who taught her history at Pelham Memorial High School. She ticks off Juliane's achievements in high school: vice president of the student body; staff of the school paper; peer counselor; founder of the Kilroys, an alcohol-free club for teens.
"Certain kids have a kind of confidence about them, that was Julie," says Ms. Grant, who has kept in contact with Ms. Gallina.
Four years ago Ms. Grant tried to convince Ms. Gallina that the military might not be right for her. "I tried to discourage her from Annapolis. . . . I thought she should go to a small liberal arts college. We just did not see Juliane in the military."
Ms. Gallina had no such reservations herself. She traces her interest in a military career to the eighth grade, when her top scores in a standardized achievement test prompted a guidance counselor to tell her she could be anything she wanted to be.
"I thought about what would be the best, most challenging, neatest thing, and 14-year-old logic came into play and I decided that being an astronaut would be just about the coolest thing I could possibly accomplish," she decided.
She researched the subject, learned that many astronauts had begun their careers as naval aviators and "decided that the Naval Academy was the only place for me." But her flying ambitions were grounded last year when she learned that she is 1.1 inch shy of the height requirement for a naval flier.
Instead, she's majoring in English, with minors in French and Spanish because, she says, "I felt that having languages was going to be essential to my well-roundedness as an officer in the Navy as I see it in the future. And I wanted English because I think for a leader, communication is essential."
Brigade commander was not something she aspired to, Ms. Gallina says, although her conversation frequently turns to leadership, the role and qualities of a leader. Nominated by her peers, with officers controlling the final selection, she impressed her superiors.
"From the leadership perspective she is a no-nonsense, very intense individual who has the charisma necessary so that individuals look to her for guidance," says Capt. Michael D. Haskins, commandant of midshipmen.
Captain Haskins acknowledges that her appointment brought out "a number of skeptics who were not sure how a female would fulfill the role." He didn't share their doubts. "I knew because of the individual that she would do as well as any male in the role," he says.
For the most part, her peers are equally positive about their commander. In conversations with a number of midshipmen -- all whom asked not to be named -- several said that they thought Ms. Gallina was appointed commander because she is a woman, especially since West Point had its first female commander a couple of years ago. But they have no quarrel with the job she's done. "I can't think of one negative thing I've heard about her, and I can't say that about every brigade commander," said one junior, a male.
Ms. Gallina's semesterlong command ends Dec. 20, with one ceremonial highlight remaining: leading the brigade in the opening ceremonies Saturday at the Army-Navy game in Philadelphia. It promises to be an especially memorable event because the date is the 50th anniversary of Pearl Harbor day.
"Boy, it's going to be nice to just kick back a little," she says of the coming change of command, but her feelings are mixed. "I regret giving up the post because I think there's a lot more to be done. I think that every day I get better. And it's my brigade now.
I don't want to give it over to anybody else."
THE GALLINA FILE
Born: Aug. 3, 1970, in Manhattan, N.Y.
Home: Pelham Manor, N.Y.
Family: Mother, Marie Gallina, a school librarian; sister, Kristin, 25, law student who is active in local politics; brother, James, 14, high school student.
Education: Graduated from Pelham Memorial High School, 1988. Currently a first classman (senior) and brigade commander at the United States Naval Academy.
Last book she read for fun: "The Collected Works of Jung."
As her commandant sees her: "She blends the best qualities we look for in naval officers -- high academic performance, physical fitness, military performance and leadership."
As her mother sees her: "She's a normal human being. She eats out of the refrigerator with her fingers. She loves clothes, she loves jewelry, she loves entertaining. She's feminine, maternal
Juliane Gallina was one of 147 women and 1,350 plebes in total who entered the U.S. Naval Academy in the summer of 1988. Of the 1,040 who remain in the class, 96 are women.
Women account for 436 of the 4,257 midshipmen in the entire brigade.
Midshipman Gallina's class is the 12th to include women.