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Air Force captain killed in Afghanistan receives Silver Star

The family of Capt. Matthew D. Roland, a special tactics officer killed in action, was presented his posthumous Silver Star by Lt. Gen. Brad Heithold, commander of Air Force Special Operations Command, at Hurlburt Field, Fla., June 1, 2016. Roland died protecting his fellow troops during an ambush on their convoy at an Afghan-led security checkpoint near Camp Antonik, Afghanistan, Aug. 26, 2015.

RYAN CONROY/U.S. AIR FORCE PHOTO

By AARON KIDD | STARS AND STRIPES Published: June 6, 2016

The Pentagon has awarded a posthumous Silver Star to a special operations airman whose quick actions saved lives during an ambush by a gunman wearing an Afghan security forces uniform.

The family of Capt. Matthew D. Roland, 27, accepted the medal Wednesday at Hurlburt Field, Fla. Roland was fatally shot along with Staff Sgt. Forrest B. Sibley, 31, on Aug. 26 after a gunman opened fire on their bus at an Afghan-led security checkpoint near Camp Antonik in Afghanistan’s Helmand province.

Roland was driving the lead vehicle in a convoy that was granted passage by two guards wearing Afghan National Defense and Security Forces uniforms, an Air Force statement said. Suddenly, one of the guards went into a bunker fortified with a belt-fed M240B machine gun, while the other raised a rifle to his shoulder and moved toward Roland’s window.

Roland shouted “Insider attack, insider attack!” into the radio and jolted the bus into reverse.

He “was killed instantly, knowingly sacrificing himself in the line of fire to alert the convoy and to protect his teammates behind him,” the statement said. “Because Roland did not hesitate to protect others in the face of danger, he gave his special operations teammates enough time to react and eliminate both gunmen.”

Lt. Gen. Brad Heithold, who presented the medal to Roland’s parents, underscored the airman’s bravery that day.

“In the face of the enemy, some people cower down and some people step up,” Heithold said. “Actions like this take a lot of courage, poured on top of sacrifice, poured on top of intense training.”

Roland, of Lexington, Ky., was attached to the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron at Hurlburt Field, a Pentagon statement said. Sibley, of Pensacola, Fla., was part of the 21st Special Tactics Squadron at Pope Army Airfield, N.C. Both squadrons are part of Air Force Special Operations Command.

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Matthew D. Roland, left, was shot and killed along with Staff Sgt. Forrest B. Sibley, right, on Aug. 26 after a gunman opened fire on their bus at an Afghan-led security checkpoint near Camp Antonik in Afghanistan's Helmand province.
COURTESY OF U.S. AIR FORCE

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