‘Flexibility is key to air power’: ROTC member and tennis player Angela Schuster can balance plenty

By Isabel Cornejo | October 6, 2021 7:41pm

Cadet Colonel Angela Schuster, wing commander, poses for a photo in uniform. Photo Courtesy of det. 695.

The life of a student athlete typically consists of balancing practices, academics, a social life and enough sleep. For ROTC students, their schedule consists of early mornings and strict guidelines. 

Each of these students has enough stress on their plates juggling rigorous and time-consuming activities. However, Angela Schuster manages to balance both.

Involved in both ROTC and the UP tennis team, Schuster has learned how to navigate the stresses of college life on top of the duties of ROTC and being an athlete. According to Schuster, she wouldn’t change a thing.

“I kind of grew up in the military, so I knew I liked the lifestyle and wanted to travel a lot,” Schuster said. “And I just decided junior year of high school, ‘Alright, let’s do it.’ I applied for a scholarship and I got it.”

Schuster’s inspiration for both activities stems from her family. Initially, she thought a career in the military would entail a life full of battle and being overseas, but after speaking with her dad, she learned that there’s a world of possibilities when it comes to a military career. 

Angela Schuster returns a volley. Photo courtesy of Portland Pilot Athletics.

The idea of her college being paid for and the opportunity to travel sparked her interest. As for tennis, her dad played for the University of Washington and her brothers played at Gonzaga and the University of Hawaii. Her brothers and dad both advocated for the military lifestyle, which influenced her decision to follow in their footsteps.

A typical week for Schuster varies, but she trains about 10-12 hours a week for tennis and has strength and conditioning on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Her ROTC advisors work with her tennis schedule so she only has to attend one PT session a week. 

During tennis season, she always tries to finish her assignments, quizzes or tests prior to leaving for a tournament so she can focus on doing her best on the court.

“I always try to get my quizzes or tests done before, because I just get too stressed trying to do it on the road,” Schuster said.

As a senior in ROTC, Schuster is a Cadet Wing Commander. Although she enjoys her role, she misses the “hands on'' experience that she had during her junior year role. This role allowed her to create lesson plans for the underclassmen cadets. She held two roles during her junior year, one for each semester, which were as the Delta Flight Commander and as the Alpha Flight Commander (IMT Commander).

Wing Commander Angela Schuster addresses her wing in a meeting. Photo courtesy of AFROTC det. 695.

“Now in my fourth year, I kind of supervise everything. So there was a lot of work during the summer. And there’s still work now, but I don’t think it’s as much as it was for me last year,” Schuster said. 

By nature, Schuster prefers a structure to her everyday life.

“I think Air Force ROTC has made me be okay with change,” Schuster said. “I definitely used to not like change at all, I was very set in my ways.”

Originally, Schuster wanted to be a pilot in the Air Force. After only a week of training, Schuster jumped out of a plane not once, but five times, earning her jump wings, awarded for completing five jumps and free falling from the plane.

Not only did Schuster jump out of a plane five times, but she did so alone with just a parachute.  As terrifying and exciting as this was for her, she didn’t feel the same passion about the activity the way her peers felt. 

“I’m kind of an adrenaline junkie,” Schuster said. “The soar was nice, but I felt like I just didn’t get the same excitement.”

She also had the opportunity to apply for a highly-competitive Pilot Slot program, but decided not to when she realized her goals had changed. As someone who likes to follow a plan, these moments made her realize that adaptability is necessary. She’s even considering resigning from the military before 20 years. 

“I definitely have a problem with taking on stuff,” Schuster said. “I’ve said yes to pretty much anything that’s been thrown at me because I don’t want to regret not taking it.”

When asked how her friends would describe her, Schuster said: hardworking, crazy, perfectionist and stubborn. 

“I feel like she is a little bit of a perfectionist,”  her friend and ROTC colleague, Jessie Desmarais, said. “And, you know, her work is that much better because of it.”

Schuster said her dad often teases her, asking her to finally fail a class because she is such a perfectionist. Desmarais attests to this, saying that Schuster frequently checks in on her and is always thinking about the bigger picture. 

“She is honestly one of the most amazing people I think I’ve met at UP,” Desmarais said. “She has a vision for herself and she’s following it. I think she’s had that vision since freshman year.”

“I’m super lucky to have met Angela and had her as my housemate for my last two years of my college experience.” Desmarais added. “Someone like Angela is someone you’d really want to keep around.”

Schuster is also known as being a supportive team player and friend. Desmarais would often go to Schuster’s tennis games during their freshman year and she remembers her cheering loudly for her teammates. Her lively energy made it fun and enjoyable for Desmarais to watch. 

Angela Schuster prepares to return a serve. Photo courtesy of Portland Pilot Athletics.

Although Schuster doesn’t plan on playing tennis professionally, she does consider it a lifelong sport and hopes to one day teach her children how to play. “It’s a lifelong sport, so hopefully I can teach my kids one day or something.” Schuster said.

Trying to balance university-level academics, school and work opportunities is a challenge, but adding two highly time-consuming activities is another battle. When times get difficult, Schuster leans on her family. 

“They’re very supportive with any decision I make,” Schuster said.

Schuster’s family is there to support her. She especially enjoys talking to her brother, who was also a tennis player and ROTC member. 

“I definitely talked to my brothers a lot,” Schuster said. 

Schuster’s perseverance and positive attitude have helped her achieve her goals. Being a student-athlete and a member of ROTC has its demands, but Schuster’s qualities and work ethic help her excel in both activities. 

“You can say, ‘oh, stay for the money or you know, stay for the security’ and, yeah, those are good points, but I actually enjoy it,” Schuster said. “I think the people make it enjoyable, like the money doesn’t make it enjoyable. People make it enjoyable.”

Isabel Cornejo is a sports reporter for The Beacon. She can be reached at cornejoi22@up.edu