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.