Story and photo by
Sgt. Daniel Schroeder
25th Combat Aviation Brigade Public Affairs, 25th Infantry Division
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan — The desire to become a pilot stems from various reasons, such as a family background in aviation, fascination with flying or the joy associated with flying aircraft.
For Chief Warrant Officer 5 Joe Roland, 25th Combat Aviation Brigade standardization officer, desire was a combination of family background and the feeling of flying.
“I used to go flying with my dad when I was 8 years old,” recalled Roland. “My passion for flying came from those flights, and my family has a background in aviation.
“My father was a senior pilot for U.S. Airways, and he used to fly for the Navy, one of my brothers is an F-18 pilot in the Navy and my other brother is an air traffic controller,” he added.
Roland’s background led to a 19-year career.
“Roland is being recognized by Sikorsky as being the Army’s most-decorated Black Hawk pilot,” said Col. Frank Tate, 25th CAB commander. “I have pinned most of the medals he has earned, as well as promoted him to CW4 and CW5.”
Before joining the Army, Roland served six years in the Marine Corps, as a UH-1N Huey crew chief. He repaired AH-1W Cobras.
In 1992, he was selected to attend Warrant Officer Candidate School and Initial Entry Rotary Wing flight training at Fort Rucker, Ala. He graduated from initial flight training on the Commandant’s List in 1993 and later was selected to attend UH-60 Black Hawk qualification training.
“I chose the Black Hawk because it is the Army’s most-versatile helicopter,” Roland said. “It has the most opportunities for a bigger scope of missions.”
When he first started in flight school, he was not a natural aviator. The instructors did a good job teaching him, he said, because he graduated in the top two percent of his class.”
As a UH-60 pilot, Roland has generated more than 6,700 flight hours, 2,250 night vision goggle flight hours, and 1,900 combat flight hours.
He has served at locations around the world, including combat tours during operations Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom and New Dawn.
“In the 10 years I have known him, he is the finest warrant officer I have served with,” said Tate. “He is aggressive and cool under fire with an unending sense of duty. There is almost nothing he wouldn’t do on behalf of the Soldier on the ground.”
When not flying missions, Roland spends his flight time mentoring young aviators.