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Governor Steve Beshear has directed that flags at all state office buildings be lowered to half-staff Friday, Sept. 18, in honor of an Air Force officer from Kentucky who died while supporting Operation Freedom’s Sentinel in Afghanistan.
According to the Department of Defense, Capt. Matthew D. Roland, 27, of Lexington, died of wounds suffered Aug. 26 when the vehicle he was traveling in was attacked near Camp Antonik, Afghanistan. Capt. Roland was assigned to the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron, Hurlburt Field, Florida.
Interment services for Capt. Roland will be held Friday, Sept. 18, at 9 a.m. EDT at Arlington National Cemetery near Washington, D.C.
Gov. Beshear encourages individuals, businesses, organizations and government agencies to join in this tribute.
Capt. Roland, and Staff Sgt. Forrest B. Sibley, 31, were killed while at a vehicle checkpoint at Camp Antonik, a forward operating base in Helmand Province, according to a 24th SOW news release. A man wearing an Afghan security force uniform opened fire inside the base in southern Afghanistan, killing the two U.S. airmen in what appeared to be the latest "insider attack" to target foreign troops or contractors in the country.
“The losses of Matt and Forrest are a terrible blow to everyone who knew them,” Col. Wolfe Davidson, 24th SOW commander, said in a news release. “These two combat controllers were incredible warriors who not only volunteered to join our nation's Special Operations Forces, but earned their way to the tip of the spear in defense of our nation.”
Capt. Roland, a 2010 Air Force Academy graduate, was a special tactics officer at the 23rd Tactics Squadron, and became a team leader who supervised the training of 34 airmen and had deployed three times in five years.
Sgt. Sibley, a combat controller with the 21st Special Tactics Squadron, received the Bronze Star four times, one with “V” device for valor. He deployed four times during his seven-year Air Force career.
“The risks that these men and their teammates endured in combat and in training are all too well known to the Special Tactics community, but it does not make this great loss any easier to bear,” Davidson said in the news release. “We will honor Matt and Forrest for the legacy they left behind, embrace their families as our own and thank them eternally for their ultimate sacrifice for American freedom."
A former teacher and coach of Air Force Capt. Roland, remember the Eagle Scout as "a born leader" who "certainly stuck out" for his motivation and dedication. "He was such a young guy who had so much to give to the world," Tim Wiesenhahn, cross-country coach at Lexington Catholic High School, told The Lexington Herald-Leader. "It's tragic."
Carrie Roberts, a teacher at Lexington Catholic, told the newspaper that she taught advanced-placement physics to Roland and wrote a letter of recommendation in support of his effort to get into the Air Force Academy. "He was a really smart kid," Roberts said. "Very trustworthy, respectful, dedicated, motivated. He was a quiet kid, and sometimes those are the hard ones to remember. But he certainly stuck out."
"He really wanted to be successful," Wiesenhahn said. "I like to say he was driven to succeed. You just kinda knew he was going to be a leader. ... The best runners really work at it, and Matt wanted to be successful, and he put in the work."
Wiesenhahn said Roland "followed directions really well. I mean, I could give them stuff to do, him and Clint Roberts, who I think was the senior captain that year, and I could trust them to follow directions and lead the team."
Survivors include his parents, retired Air Force Col. Mark Roland and Barbara Roland. Roland's sister, Erica, is a public defender in Lexington.
Roland was a special tactics officer at the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron in Afghanistan. After completing the rigorous special tactics training program in 2012, he was a team leader who supervised real-world combat preparedness training for a 35-member team. He deployed three times in his five years of service to multiple locations globally.
"The losses of Matt and Forrest are a terrible blow to everyone who knew them," said Col. Wolfe Davidson, 24th Special Operations Wing commander. "These two combat controllers were incredible warriors who not only volunteered to join our nation's Special Operations Forces, but earned their way to the tip of the spear in defense of our nation."