According to the White House, Atkins was trying to subdue the suspected insurgent in June 2007 when he realized the man was trying to detonate a bomb that was strapped to him. Atkins, 31, of Bozeman, Montana, then used his body to shield fellow soldiers from the explosion near a mosque in Al Yusufiyah.
Atkins' heroic sacrifice in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom saved the lives of three fellow soldiers, the White House said. Atkins was a member of the 10th Mountain Division out of Fort Drum, New York, and was on his second tour of duty in Iraq at the time of his death. He oversaw a squad of 15 soldiers.
Atkins deployed to Iraq in 2003 and was later honorably discharged as a sergeant. He re-enlisted in the Army in 2005 after attending the University of Montana and deployed to Iraq again in 2006. He was promoted to staff sergeant in May 2007, a month before he was killed.