As the bus idled, the troops' interpreter got out
and started talking to two guards at the checkpoint wearing Afghan
National Defense and Security Forces uniforms. After giving the
convoy permission to pass, one guard moved toward a bunker fortified
with a belt-fed M240B machine gun.
other guard approached Roland's door. When the guard was within five
feet, he started to raise his M4 rifle to his shoulder.
Roland knew exactly what was happening. He keyed the radio.
"Insider attack! Insider attack!" he shouted to his comrades as he threw the gearshift in reverse.
Roland was born at Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota,
in 1987, and also lived in Texas, New Mexico and Kentucky as his father
was transferred around the country. He ran cross country and became an
Eagle Scout in 2002. He was commissioned after graduating from the Air
Force Academy in 2010. After finishing the two-year special tactics
officer training program, he was assigned to the 23rd Special Tactics
Squadron in the 720th Special Tactics Group, 24th Special Operations
Wing, at Air Force Special Operations Command at Hurlburt. He deployed
to Afghanistan twice and to Africa once, and was also a joint terminal
Roland knew the road home best, so he volunteered
to drive the lead vehicle. There were three Afghan-run checkpoints on
the way, and they passed the first two without any trouble.
he realized the guards at the third checkpoint had laid an ambush for
them, Roland made a decision. He could have ducked behind the dashboard
to save himself, the narrative said. He could have reached for his own
But instead of trying to protect himself, the Pentagon
said, Roland acted to save his fellow troops' lives by alerting them to
the danger and trying to move the bus out of the kill zone. The first
volley of gunfire "tore through the front windshield of the bus, killing
Captain Roland instantly," the narrative said. The gunman then shot
into the bus several more times, killing Sibley and wounding some of the
Roland's warning gave the other troops a chance to
take cover and draw their own weapons and kill the first gunman, the
Pentagon said. The second gunman had reached the bunker by that point
and shot at the bus with his own M4. But the troops were able to kill
him before he could turn the M240B machine gun on the convoy.
Roland's Silver Star citation and accompanying narrative lauded his
"exceptionally heroic actions" and said he "distinguished himself by
gallantry" the night he died.
"Captain Roland gave the last full
measure and sacrificed his own life to preserve the lives of his
teammates," the narrative said. "If Captain Roland had not used his
final breath to alert everyone around him of the impending threat while
simultaneously moving his team away from danger, the losses would have
been catastrophic. His actions saved countless lives, including the
Special Operations Task Force-Afghanistan commander, who was on Captain
Roland's vehicle that night."
The Silver Star is the military's
third-highest decoration for valor in combat. More than 70 Silver Stars
have been presented to airmen since 2001, and of those, 35 have gone to
special tactics airmen.
"Matt was a fierce, courageous leader who
gave his all for his team and his country," Lt. Col. Paul Brister, who
commanded Roland at the 23rd, said in an Air Force release. His last
actions embody the sort of man he was: full of character and courage. He
is truly a hero."