HomeNewsArticle Display

Two fallen Special Tactics Airmen honored, remembered

Airmen salute during Capt. Matthew D. Roland and Staff Sgt. Forrest B. Sibley’s memorial service, Sept. 14, 2015, at Hurlburt Field, Fla. The two Special Tactics Airmen, who had recently deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Freedom's Sentinel, were shot at a vehicle checkpoint at Camp Antonik, Afghanistan, Aug. 26, and died of wounds sustained in the attack, were honored in a private memorial.  Both Special Tactics Airmen will be buried with full military honors. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ryan Conroy/Released)

Airmen salute during Capt. Matthew D. Roland and Staff Sgt. Forrest B. Sibley’s memorial service, Sept. 14, 2015, at Hurlburt Field, Fla. The two Special Tactics Airmen, who had recently deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Freedom's Sentinel, were shot at a vehicle checkpoint at Camp Antonik, Afghanistan, Aug. 26, and died of wounds sustained in the attack, were honored in a private memorial. Both Special Tactics Airmen will be buried with full military honors. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ryan Conroy/Released)

Airmen salute during Capt. Matthew D. Roland and Staff Sgt. Forrest B. Sibley’s memorial service, Sept. 14, 2015, at Hurlburt Field, Fla. More than 1,000 friends and family members from across the country gathered together to mourn the loss of Roland, a special tactics officer from 23rd Special Tactics Squadron, and Sibley, a combat controller from the 21st Special Tactics Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ryan Conroy/Released)

Airmen salute during Capt. Matthew D. Roland and Staff Sgt. Forrest B. Sibley’s memorial service, Sept. 14, 2015, at Hurlburt Field, Fla. More than 1,000 friends and family members from across the country gathered together to mourn the loss of Roland, a special tactics officer from 23rd Special Tactics Squadron, and Sibley, a combat controller from the 21st Special Tactics Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ryan Conroy/Released)

Lt. Col. Paul Brister, 23rd Special Tactics Squadron commander, speaks at the memorial service for Capt. Matthew D. Roland and Staff Sgt. Forrest B. Sibley on Hurlburt Field, Fla., Sept. 14, 2015. The two Special Tactics Airmen, who had recently deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Freedom's Sentinel, were shot at a vehicle checkpoint at Camp Antonik, Afghanistan, Aug. 26, and died of wounds sustained in the attack, were honored in a private memorial. Both Special Tactics Airmen will be buried with full military honors. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Kai White/Released)

Lt. Col. Paul Brister, 23rd Special Tactics Squadron commander, speaks at the memorial service for Capt. Matthew D. Roland and Staff Sgt. Forrest B. Sibley on Hurlburt Field, Fla., Sept. 14, 2015. The two Special Tactics Airmen, who had recently deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Freedom's Sentinel, were shot at a vehicle checkpoint at Camp Antonik, Afghanistan, Aug. 26, and died of wounds sustained in the attack, were honored in a private memorial. Both Special Tactics Airmen will be buried with full military honors. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Kai White/Released)

Special Tactics Airmen prepare to transfer the remains of Staff Sgt. Forrest B. Sibley on Hurlburt Field, Fla., Sept. 14, 2015. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Kai White/Released)

Special Tactics Airmen prepare to transfer the remains of Staff Sgt. Forrest B. Sibley on Hurlburt Field, Fla., Sept. 14, 2015. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Kai White/Released)

Special Tactics Airmen bear the remains of Staff Sgt. Forrest B. Sibley during a dignified transfer on Hurlburt Field, Fla., Sept. 14, 2015. The two Special Tactics Airmen, who had recently deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Freedom's Sentinel, were shot at a vehicle checkpoint at Camp Antonik, Afghanistan, Aug. 26, and died of wounds sustained in the attack, were honored in a private memorial.  Both Special Tactics Airmen will be buried with full military honors. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Kai White/Released)

Special Tactics Airmen bear the remains of Staff Sgt. Forrest B. Sibley during a dignified transfer on Hurlburt Field, Fla., Sept. 14, 2015. The two Special Tactics Airmen, who had recently deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Freedom's Sentinel, were shot at a vehicle checkpoint at Camp Antonik, Afghanistan, Aug. 26, and died of wounds sustained in the attack, were honored in a private memorial. Both Special Tactics Airmen will be buried with full military honors. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Kai White/Released)

Special Tactics Airmen salute the remains of Staff Sgt. Forrest B. Sibley during a dignified transfer on Hurlburt Field, Fla., Sept. 14, 2015. The two Special Tactics Airmen, who had recently deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Freedom's Sentinel, were shot at a vehicle checkpoint at Camp Antonik, Afghanistan, Aug. 26, and died of wounds sustained in the attack, were honored in a private memorial.  Both Special Tactics Airmen will be buried with full military honors. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Kai White/Released)

Special Tactics Airmen salute the remains of Staff Sgt. Forrest B. Sibley during a dignified transfer on Hurlburt Field, Fla., Sept. 14, 2015. The two Special Tactics Airmen, who had recently deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Freedom's Sentinel, were shot at a vehicle checkpoint at Camp Antonik, Afghanistan, Aug. 26, and died of wounds sustained in the attack, were honored in a private memorial. Both Special Tactics Airmen will be buried with full military honors. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Kai White/Released)

Hurlburt Field personnel line Independence Road to honor Staff Sgt. Forrest Sibley, a combat controller from the 21st Special Tactics Squadron, and his family during a procession at Hurlburt Field, Fla., Sep. 14, 2015. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Senior Airmen Hayden K. Hyatt/Released)

Hurlburt Field personnel line Independence Road to honor Staff Sgt. Forrest Sibley, a combat controller from the 21st Special Tactics Squadron, and his family during a procession at Hurlburt Field, Fla., Sep. 14, 2015. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airmen Hayden K. Hyatt/Released)

HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. -- More than 1,000 family members, friends and teammates from around the country gathered here Sept. 14 to honor and remember two Special Tactics Airmen who were killed in action last month in an insider attack.

As the procession of family members departed the memorial, nearly 2,000 Air Commandos lined the roads and saluted to honor Capt. Matthew D. Roland, 23rd Special Tactics Squadron, and Staff Sgt. Forrest B. Sibley, 21st Special Tactics Squadron. Both were killed Aug. 26 at a vehicle checkpoint near Camp Antonik, Afghanistan.

“There are no words, lessons [or] themes that could properly memorialize Matt and Forrest,” said Lt. Col. Paul Brister, 23rd STS commander, at the memorial service. “They both lived lives bigger than that. The best way we can memorialize them is to live life with as much zeal, humor and love as they demonstrated in theirs.”

Roland, 27, a special tactics officer and team leader, was a qualified special operations battlefield commander who had deployed three times in his five years of service. Roland graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 2010 and completed the rigorous special operations training pipeline in 2012. He was a native of Lexington, Ky., and is survived by his parents and sibling.

“Matt was anything but typical,” Brister said. “On the battlefield he was a lion — lethal, precise, humble and compassionate. He was always flawless. I’m convinced I learned more from him than he could ever learn from me.”

Roland lived to protect his teammates, said Master Sgt. Jared Hodges, 23rd STS.

“He was our leader, mentor and brother,” Hodges said. “His biggest fear was letting [us] down.”

Sibley, 31, a combat controller stationed at Pope Army Airfield, N.C., had deployed four times to numerous sensitive locations in his seven years of service. For his commitment in the face of consistent danger, he received four Bronze Star medals, one with the Valor device for bravery against an enemy of the U.S. in combat. He was a native of Pensacola, Fla., and is survived by his parents and siblings.

Capt. Michael Bain, 21st STS director of operations, said Sibley was a selfless man.

“Men like Forrest run toward the sound of chaos,” Bain said. “He cared more about others than himself.”

Staff Sgt. Bob Sears said Sibley was an incredible warrior, friend and teammate.

“We are hurting for Forrest and Matt, but they will never be forgotten,” Sears said. “We will never stop talking about them.”

As tradition dictates, during the memorial service, there was a final roll call to account for Special Tactics Airmen. When Roland’s and Sibley’s names were called three times with no response, Airmen responded they were no longer present to report for duty, as they were killed in action.

After the conclusion of the ceremony, service members lined to salute the two battlefield crosses representing both Airmen, which were a pair of boots, a rifle, their special operations berets and dog tags. Special Tactics Airmen also tacked their flashes, or special operations insignia normally found on their berets or uniforms, next to the battlefield cross, to honor their fallen comrades.

Following the memorial, hundreds of Special Tactics Airmen saluted Sibley’s coffin, draped in an American flag, as a FA-20 aircraft completed the dignified arrival before his interment at a local cemetery.

Both Airmen will be interred at military cemeteries with full military honors at a later date.