A Jump to Remember: Fallen Special Tactics Airman honored in hometown

  • Published
  • By Capt. Katrina Cheesman
  • 24th Special Operations Wing

Air Force Special Tactics Airmen dedicated military freefall training into the Pensacola Bay to Staff Sgt Forrest Sibley, a combat controller from the local killed in action, Aug. 26, 2015, in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, on the first anniversary of his death.

After free falling into Sibley’s hometown waters from a C-17 Globemaster III from Charleston Air Force Base, S.C., his teammates joined the Gold Star family to complete a memorial ruck to his final resting place.

“When we lost Forrest, most of his teammates were still deployed for another five months, and couldn’t attend any funeral or memorial event,” Lt. Col. Stewart Parker, commander of 21st Special Tactics Squadron, Sibley’s unit. “This dedication and memorial ruck is an important step for us as a brotherhood to honor Forrest’s legacy of valor, and get a small bit of closure.”

His teammates escorted the family to Sibley’s burial site, wearing combat ruck sacks weighing more than 50 pounds to represent the deployed . Once at Barrancas National Cemetery here, they completed a round of memorial push-ups to honor their fallen teammate.

Sibley, 31, had served in the Air Force as a combat controller since 2008. In his seven years of service, he received four Bronze Star Medals, once with valor for heroism in combat, as well as a Purple Heart for injuries sustained in combat.

“Forrest was one of our best combat controllers, but he was also a pleasure to work with; you couldn’t feel down about yourself when you were around Forrest,” Parker said. “It was an unspeakable tragedy to lose him.”

As a Special Tactics combat controller, Sibley was trained to survey and establish airfields, direct precision strikes and control air power, all in hostile or austere areas. He was also qualified as a military static line jumper, free fall jumper, an Air Force combat scuba diver and a joint terminal attack controller.
“Forrest was red, white and blue. ” said Suzi Fernandez, mother of the fallen Airman, said. “His last words to me were, “Go USA, go USA.”

He was on his fourth overall deployment and third deployment to Afghanistan when he was killed in action.

“Even though our brother is gone, our brotherhood still has a tremendous responsibility,” Parker said. “We must cherish his memory, and we must serve his legacy of duty and patriotism, and love. When we the brotherhood devote ourselves to those principles, then Forrest Sibley, will live forever.”

He had been stationed at Pope Army Airfield, North Carolina, since 2014.

Capt. Matthew D. Roland, a Special Tactics officer who was stationed here, was also killed in the same attack; Roland received a Silver Star medal for his last actions that day.

Members of Roland’s unit, the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron, participated in the day’s events, and dedicated a “Monster Mash,” or a team-oriented physical competition, to Roland on Hurlburt Field.

Jordan Sibley, Sibley’s sister, noted this day was also about Roland. “We lost a brother,” she said, “But we gained a larger family in the Rolands and the Air Force.”