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Beneath the Drab Army Green Beats Heart of a Model Soldier

October 20, 1986|DENNIS McLELLAN | Times Staff Writer

The green camouflage fatigues are neatly pressed, the black field boots are spit-shined to a high gloss and the black beret is set squarely over close-cropped hair.

It's everything you'd expect of an ROTC cadet brigade commander.

The pierced ears, the pink nail polish and the diamond engagement ring, however, are not government issue. Neither is the photogenic smile Angela Rosenau flashes as she strides across the Cal State Fullerton campus between classes.

After only a year in the Reserve Officers' Training Corps, Rosenau has achieved the highest rank attainable in her ROTC brigade, and she's the first woman to do so in the 68-year history of the brigade, which encompasses Cal State Fullerton, the Claremont Colleges, Cal Poly Pomona and Cal State San Bernardino.

And the 25-year-old political science major holds yet another distinction: She is the first ROTC cadet brigade commander to be a former Midwest Model of the Year.

Indeed, the 5-foot-7, 113-pound cadet colonel is equally at home walking down a fashion-show runway or posing for a fashion layout as she is rappelling off a helicopter skid or leading cadets on an ambush patrol during a training exercise.

Still a part-time model, Rosenau's most recent assignment involved shooting a fashion layout aboard the Queen Mary. "I've got a hair ad on tap this month and a couple of fashion shows for May Co.," she said, adding that, as a model, "I make good money and it's just something I really enjoy doing."

Angela Rosenau, the glamorous model, differs sharply from Angela Rosenau, the spit-shined ROTC cadet colonel.

'Command Presence'

Watching her in action inspecting the cadets standing in formation on the university's football training field last week provided a glimpse of what Maj. Lawrence Vidinha, the brigade's senior class adviser, refers to as Rosenau's "command presence."

"When she takes charge, everybody knows she's in charge," he says.

Rosenau's promotion to commander appears to have been well-received within the ranks.

"There may be one or two individuals who think women have a certain place," acknowledged Capt. Kenneth Sadeckas, officer in charge of the Cal State Fullerton ROTC detachment, "but by and far, they realize she earned it, and they respect the fact that she earned it."

Rosenau won the promotion in August after having been ranked No. 1 out of 62 senior cadets on the brigade's order of merit list.

The ranking is based on three areas: cumulative grade-point average (hers is a 3.7), a military science proficiency evaluation (she earned top marks, including scoring 300 out of 300 on a physical fitness test), and ROTC advanced camp, a six-week leadership training exercise held last summer at Ft. Lewis, Wash. (She was ranked in the top 10% of the cadets from 22 western states.)

"Basically, she has natural leadership ability," Vidinha said. "She also has enthusiasm, which is extremely important and that tends to be contagious. I'd say that perhaps one of the best things about having her as brigade commander is that much more important than just being a role model for the female cadets, she is a role model for all the cadets, both male and female.

"I think she is a classic example of being in the Army green without losing (her) femininity. . . . She's very much female and very much soldier and they complement each other."

Becoming cadet colonel was a goal she worked hard to achieve, particularly during the advanced leadership camp where she led a 40-member platoon through a variety of combat scenarios, including raids, reconnaissance and ambush patrols. "It was," she admits with a laugh, "a strong motivator during the day as I was dying and wiped out."

As cadet brigade commander, she puts in 20 to 25 hours a week. Her duties include recruiting, overseeing cadet relations ("both with their school and among themselves and the cadre"), putting together training schedules and doing public relations for the ROTC program.

In typical military fashion, the job often requires rising before dawn.

"I was up at 3 'clock this morning, if that gives you a clue," she said with a smile, explaining that she had to drive to Pomona for a 5:30 a.m. briefing for a coming ROTC leadership training exercise at Camp Pendleton. The combat exercise, held over the weekend, included troops being airlifted into a simulated "hot" zone.

Although she says such exercises are "exciting," she observes that "it really brings a sense of what a wartime situation would be like and makes you understand how vulnerable you can be in combat and the seriousness of the whole thing; that you're out there risking your life and the lives of others."

Since the university newspaper featured an article about Rosenau and her promotion in September, her campus profile has risen considerably.

She has mixed feelings about her new-found celebrity, however.

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