‘Bama Salute’: AFROTC Swears In New Group of Cadets at Soccer Match

University of Alabama students are sworn into UA Air Force ROTC during halftime of UA’s soccer match against LSU Sept. 21.


ROTC contracting ceremonies are typically low-key: an oath taken as a group in front of fellow cadets, cadre and family.

But during halftime of the recent UA-LSU soccer game, 20 UA students were sworn into University of Alabama Air Force ROTC before 700 people under the lights at Alabama Soccer Stadium.

The ceremony was part of “Bama Salute,” a year-round UA Athletics program to honor active duty service members and military veterans at various UA sporting events.

Cadet Austin Spaulding, left, is congratulated by Lt. Col. Mark Valdez, commander of UA AFROTC.

“We were ecstatic – the energy in the detachment today was great during PT,” said cadet Austin Spaulding, a junior from Hanscom Air Force Base, Massachusetts. “A lot of other people who have contracted didn’t have a crowd, so it’s a very exciting experience and we feel honored to have so many bystanders there to support us.”

The ceremony was Spaulding’s first step in following the military path of his father, Air Force Maj. Chris B. Spaulding, who has 26 years of military service and was commissioned in 2004. Austin said his father’s career trajectory from enlisted lab technician to commissioned financial analyst has influenced his major (business) and given him confidence to join UA ROTC and eventually apply that knowledge to the Air Force.

“My dad was pretty ecstatic about my decision to join,” Austin said. “He said he was proud I found a direction and genuinely believes that, had it not been for the Air Force, he wouldn’t be where he is today. He’s had so many career opportunities. I want that same success, and the UA AFROTC program will help prepare me for that.”

Austin chose to attend UA because he’d grown up like most military children – moving often from base to base – so relocating from Washington D.C. to Tuscaloosa was a welcomed transition.

Cadet Bailey Delamer, left, and Lt. Col. Mark Valdez

Cadet Bailey Delamer, of Hilton Head, South Carolina, shares a similar military upbringing and military influence. Her father, (Ret.) U.S. Navy Commander Kevin J. Delamer is a former helicopter pilot and was her JROTC commander in high school. She knew by her sophomore year of high school that she wanted to join ROTC when she got to college.

Bailey, though, wanted to attend a smaller university where she could know more of campus.

“Originally, I didn’t want to go to a big school. But my mom, who was a gymnast at Florida State, said she’d visited UA while competing and loved the campus. She convinced me to visit, and I fell in love.” Cadet Bailey Delamer

Finding the right AFROTC program was important for Bailey, whose mother and father both served in the Air Force.

“I knew I wanted to do ROTC, and I’d talked to other schools’ programs, and none seemed as intense and involved as Alabama’s,” she said. “We do a lot of volunteer activities, and we’re ranked as a higher detachment across the nation. We’re very involved outside the class.”

Bailey is an aerospace engineering major and hopes to eventually work in the Air Force Office of Special Investigations.

UA AFROTC beat Army ROTC in a tug-of-war at halftime.

UA ROTC cadets sworn in Friday include Kenneth Brazile, Brewton, Alabama; Kyle Buffaloe, Northport, Alabama; William Cunzeman, Capron, Illinois; Ben Dobry, Gulf Breeze, Florida; Mone Ford, Issaquah, Washington; Russell Fornwalt, Sylacauga, Alabama; Dantae Gilmore, Atlanta, Georgia; Ashley Hellwig, Prattville, Alabama; Darius Jenkins, Hoover, Alabama; Xavier McCoy, Accokeek, Maryland; Alexander Naff, Beavercreek, Ohio; David Rice, Walton, Kentucky; Cal Riley, Clay County, Alabama; Gabe Rye, Memphis, Tennessee; Elijah Sanders, Sylacauga, Alabama; Richard Terry, Alberton, Montana; Zachary Vourlotis, Hoover, Alabama; Miller Wilkinson, Trussville, Alabama.

Since 2004, 159 University of Alabama AFRTOC cadets have been commissioned into the Air Force.

The University of Alabama, the state’s oldest and largest public institution of higher education, is a student-centered research university that draws the best and brightest to an academic community committed to providing a premier undergraduate and graduate education. UA is dedicated to achieving excellence in scholarship, collaboration and intellectual engagement; providing public outreach and service to the state of Alabama and the nation; and nurturing a campus environment that fosters collegiality, respect and inclusivity.