USF AFROTC Cadet Earns Silver Valor Award

By Gary R. Carruthers, Lt Col, USAF

AFROTC Det 158



TAMPA, Fla. (Feb. 12, 2010) – As Rosa Hernandez watched her daughter being honored by the University of South Florida and Air Force ROTC (AFROTC) officials in front of 48,000 fans at a USF home football game, her eyes welled up and the tears overflowed.


“When I brought her and her brother to the United States, all I wanted was for them to have a chance to do great things,” Hernandez said. 


Her daughter is Estefania Buritica, a first-year cadet in USF’s AFROTC program. The award Buritica received is the AFROTC Silver Valor Award, the second-highest award an AFROTC cadet can earn.


When she is not going to class or participating in ROTC activities, Buritica works as a driver of one of USF’s student shuttle buses transporting riders from one end of campus to the other. She received her award for actions taken one afternoon in the fall term while driving the shuttle on what had started out as an ordinary shift.


That afternoon the university had received an on-campus security threat, so Buritica followed established procedures for such a situation. As events unfolded, however, she became aware that it was her shuttle that had drawn the attention of security personnel. While maintaining communications with the appropriate authorities, she kept passengers on her bus calm and aided police in successful resolution of a potentially catastrophic event. Her actions earned her accolades from her supervisory chain up to and including the university president.


The AFROTC Valor Award recognizes cadets who distinguish themselves through voluntary acts of heroism that may not necessarily be in connection with an AFROTC event. A Gold Valor Award would involve conspicuous risk of life, while the Silver Valor Award is earned for voluntary acts of heroism that do not meet the risk-of-life standard.


Cadet Buritica was nominated for the award by her AFROTC Detachment Commander, Colonel Robert G. Wright, Jr., in acknowledgement of her living out the Air Force’s core values of integrity, service and excellence. In his nomination letter, Wright stated, “Cadet Buritica’s valorous actions to safeguard her passengers most certainly embody service before self, and by all accounts she executed her responsibilities with excellence and flair.”         


“My actions were instinctive,” said Buritica. “I knew I needed to protect the lives of my passengers and make sure I aided the officers. The drivers are trained for situations like this and AFROTC training teaches discipline, thinking and maintaining composure. I just let the training take over. Overall, I’m just thankful the situation was quickly resolved and no one was hurt.”


Buritica’s mother’s dream has come true; she is doing great things and better yet, being recognized for it.


The University of South Florida is one of the nation's top 63 public research universities and one of only 25 public research universities nationwide with very high research activity that is designated as community engaged by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.  USF was awarded $380.4 million in research contracts and grants in FY 2008/2009. The university offers 232 degree programs at the undergraduate, graduate, specialist and doctoral levels, including the doctor of medicine. The USF System has a $1.8 billion annual budget, an annual economic impact of $3.2 billion, and serves more than 47,000 students on institutions/campuses in Tampa, St. Petersburg, Sarasota-Manatee and Lakeland. USF is a member of the Big East Athletic Conference.