The Army ROTC program intensely demands a cadet's full-time commitment, much the like commitment required to participate in a Division 1 sport. It would be almost impossible to participate (let alone excel) in both. Almost.
Angela Fini '24 (above, middle) just happened to look outside her Ryan Hall 4th floor window at the perfect moment to change her life. It was the spring of her freshman year, and she was in the middle of a MAAC championship run with the soccer team. Her goal for as long as she could remember was to play college soccer and then pursue a career in medicine... until she looked out the window. Four stories below, a group of ROTC cadets was walking toward the dining hall. Angela wondered why the Army was on campus, and she also wondered why she wondered. She went to Siena's website, and she clicked her way through to the ROTC program. There's a button near the bottom of the page that says "request information." She clicked it, and her life pivoted in a whole new direction.
The Army ROTC Mohawk Battalion, hosted at Siena College but serving several area colleges and universities, trains and develops future leaders of the United States Army. In addition to Siena's traditional curriculum, ROTC students take specialized coursework that includes classes in military science, leadership, and management. In the past ten years, only one local Division 1 student athlete completed the program and was commissioned into the Army (a UAlbany student). Angela is on track to be the second.
"After I requested information, I quickly got an email response and we set up a meeting. I was told how rare it is for student athletes to participate, plus, since it was already the spring of my freshman year, I'd have to catch up. I was told I could attend two weeks of PT (physical training - running and weightlifting at 6:00 a.m., or earlier), and we'd try it out. I walked back into the office two weeks later and said, 'I'm ready.'"
Angela has no family or personal connection to the military, and she struggles to explain the pull she felt that day when she saw the cadets walking to lunch. But, she's always had a desire to help people, which is why she originally gravitated toward medicine.
"In the Army, you're serving people in a different way. I want to take people under my wing as an officer. I'm excited to be a strong leader. I want to make people the best soldiers and the best versions of themselves they can be."
Angela convinced her soccer coach she could handle the rigors of both, and with the help of her teammates, she's kept her word. Last year, Angela struggled to adjust to a sleep schedule that worked, trying to balance homework, practice, classes, and early morning PT. Her roommates would buy her coffee and leave it on her desk. Maybe that's why Angela doesn't mind it when they call her "Cadet Fini" during practice.
Angela is contracted for eight years of military service after graduation, and based on evaluations this year and advanced camp in Fort Knox, KY next summer, she'll be placed in a branch of the Army. Her first choice will be medical services, but she also has an interest in field artillery.
"A lot of my soccer teammates are trying to figure out what to do professionally. It's scary that my path is different than theirs. But if I wasn't a little bit scared, I know it wouldn't be the right thing. This is exactly where I'm supposed to be."
"With all of the early morning training that she does for ROTC, I have never seen her at a soccer practice without a smile and high energy. She has never had a day where she looked tired or didn't give a full 100% effort. Her athleticism and drive is truly remarkable!"
Steve Karbowski, head soccer coach
"What has impressed me the most about Cadet Fini is her drive and resiliency. She is not afraid of challenges. She jumps in with extreme confidence, rolls up her sleeves, and gets dirty to accomplish any mission or task. But what impresses me the most is her character. She is the epitome of what we are looking for from our tactical leaders - confident, agile and most importantly, resilient."
Master Sergeant Bradley Hecker, military science instructor
"Cadet Fini is exactly the type of leader our soldiers need and deserve. I'm very proud of her performance both as a college athlete and an Army cadet."
LTC Luis Mejia-Roman, professor of military science
Angela scored a perfect 600 on the Army Combat Fitness Test, a strenuous gauntlet of six disciplines testing physical and mental strength. Angela was the first female cadet at Siena to record a perfect score in the recently modified standard, an accomplishment that likely ranks her among the top one percent in the country. When her teammates on the soccer team found out, they surprised her with a gift basket.
"I didn't know it, but they kicked me out of the group chat so I wouldn't be suspicious, and they planned this big surprise. They showed up at lift with this huge gift basket. It was overwhelming. I cried a little!"