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Air Force honors heroic Special Tactics officer Captain Matthew Roland

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In May, Air Commandos gathered to honor the late Captain Matthew Roland, a Special Tactics Officer, whose leadership saved a lot of lives during an insider attack in Afghanistan.

In a ceremony, the 24th Special Operations Wing dedicated one of its Special Tactics Training Squadron facilities to Cpt. Roland’s memory. The facility is used in the assessment and training of new Special Tactics officers.

Special Tactics Airmen along with friends and family do memorial push-ups after a dedication ceremony at Hurlburt Field, Florida, May 6, 2021 in honor of U.S. Air Force Capt. Matthew Roland, a fallen special tactics officer. Roland was killed in action protecting his teammates during an ambush at an Afghan-led security checkpoint near Camp Antonik, Afghanistan, Aug. 26, 2015. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Miranda Mahoney)

“Today I have the privilege of dedicating the Roland Field Leadership Training Complex,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Matthew Allen, commander of the 24th  Special Operations Wing, in a press release.

“It’s particularly meaningful to dedicate this training site to Matt as he spent years of his life honing his leadership expertise. At his core, [Matthew] was concerned with loving and protecting his family, being a leader in our Air Force and living out his warrior ethos. If there was a hardship, he’d endure it. If there was a burden, he’d help lift it. If there was a challenge…he’d meet it.”

In 2015, Roland was assigned to 23rd Special Tactics Squadron, out of Hurlburt Field, Florida. He was deployed to Afghanistan and was working with US Army Special Forces. Roland and his Green Beret comrades were returning to base after a long day in the field when they encountered a series of Afghan military checkpoints.

They had successfully navigated two checkpoints but on the third, two individuals dressed in Afghan military uniforms opened fire. Roland, who was driving the lead vehicle, saw this unfold and radioed a warning for an insider attack before getting killed, choosing to alert his teammates instead of seeking cover.

The family of U.S. Air Force Capt. Matthew Roland unveils a sign during a building dedication ceremony at Hurlburt Field, Florida, May 6, 2021. The Special Tactics Training Squadron facility was renamed in honor of Roland, a 23rd STS special tactics officer who died protecting his teammates during an ambush at an Afghan-led security checkpoint near Camp Antonik, Afghanistan, Aug. 26, 2015. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Amanda A. Flower-Raschella)

“It means everything to be a part of his legacy,” said Special Tactics Officer, who had recently graduated from the pipeline.

“I think he embodies a lot of what a lot of people in our position are trying to do and why we joined. Guys like him paved the way for us and have shown us an example of who we should strive to be like. We’re honored to be walking in his footsteps and everyone who came before us.”

An Air Force Academy graduate, Roland chose the rigorous Special Tactics Officer career path. Lasting more than two years, the pipeline is one of the most physically and technically difficult in the U.S. special operations community.

Captain Matthew Roland (USAF)

“Matthew was a patriot, he believed in his nation and was dedicated to service,”  U.S. Air Force, retired, Col. Mark Roland, Matthew’s father, said.

“He loved serving as a STO and leading his team. This complex is a testament that he was good at what he did and respected for how he did it. He never quit, he never gave up. Be strong in the face of adversity. To us, this complex dedicated to selecting and training Special Tactics Officers represents three things that Matthew valued…service, strength and sacrifice.”

For his actions on that fateful night, Roland was awarded the Silver Star, the nation’s third-highest award for valor under fire.  

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Stavros Atlamazoglou

Greek Army veteran (National service with 575th Marines Battalion and Army HQ). Johns Hopkins University. You will usually find him on the top of a mountain admiring the view and wondering how he got there.