Staff Sergeant Atkins was born in England in 1983 to LtGen (ret) Dana and Laura Atkins. He enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in February 2007 as an Airborne Mandarin Linguist. SSgt Atkins then volunteered for "Project Liberty" in 2009 as a Tactical Support Operator for the Air Force's new MC-12W Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance platform. He has deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2010; Operation New Dawn in 2010 and 2011, including the drawdown in Iraq; and Operation Enduring Freedom in 2011. His military decorations and awards include ten Air Medals, two Air Force Achievement Medals, four Meritorious Unit Awards, Iraq Campaign Medal (with one bronze star), Expeditionary Service Medal w/ Gold Border (for combat action), and two short tours.