The U.S. military released on Thursday the names of two U.S. airmen who were killed in an apparent insider attack in Afghanistan, and disclosed that they came under fire at a vehicle checkpoint near a base used by Special Operations troops.
Capt. Matthew D. Roland, 27, and Staff Sgt. Forrest B. Sibley, 31, died early Thursday after two men wearing Afghan military uniforms opened fire on them on Camp Antonik in Helmand province, Air Force officials said in a statement. Both Americans were in special tactics units that coordinate airstrikes and frequently integrate with Navy SEALs, Green Berets and other U.S. Special Operations troops.
The Pentagon released their identities early Thursday after notifying their families. Roland deployed twice in a five-year military career, while Sibley deployed four times in nearly seven.
The deaths provide a glimpse into what U.S. Special Operations troops continue to do even as the U.S. military continues to draw down its troops in Afghanistan. Nearly all conventional coalition troops were pulled from Helmand province last fall, but Special Operations forces continue to operation in the region to advise and assist the Afghans in their fight against the Taliban and other insurgent groups.
“The losses of Matt and Forrest are a terrible blow to everyone who knew them,” said Col. Wolfe Davidson, commander of the Air Force’s 24th Special Operations Wing. “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.”
Roland was a special tactics officer with the Air Force’s 23rd Special Tactics Squadron based at Hurlburt Field on the Florida Panhandle and a 2010 graduate of the Air Force Academy. He supervised combat preparedness training for a 35-member team, the Air Force said.
Sibley was a combat controller with the 21st Special Tactics Squadron based at Pope Army Airfield in North Carolina. He earned four Bronze Stars, one with a “V” device indicating it was earned with valor under fire.
U.S. military officials said Wednesday that the attack occurred on the former Camp Bastion, a major coalition military base in Helmand that was turned over to the Afghan government last October. Camp Antonik is actually nearby, and has been used as a home to U.S. Special Operations troops for several years, according to photographs previously released by the military. It is named after Staff Sgt. Christopher Antonik, a member of Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command who was killed in a massive battle in Helmand in 2010.
It is not clear what happened to the two Afghans after the ambush on Roland and Sibley began. A statement released by military officials on Wednesday said that one was killed and one was wounded, but the news release published by the Air Force on Thursday said both were dead.