Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Travis W. Atkins dies 'when an improvised explosive device detonated near his unit'

HELENA (AP) — The 31-year-old soldier from Bozeman who was killed Friday in Iraq loved the military, his mother said.

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Travis Atkins is the first soldier from Bozeman and the second from Gallatin County to die in Iraq since the war began there in 2003. He was on his second tour of duty in Iraq and oversaw a squad of 15 soldiers, said his parents, Jack and Elaine Atkins of Bozeman.

‘‘He loved the Army. He did an excellent job,’’ Elaine Atkins said as she fought back tears. ‘‘He was well thought of by his subordinates and his superior officers.’’

Atkins and several other U.S. soldiers were on patrol at about 11 a.m. on Friday, when they observed four suspicious Iraqi citizens, a U.S. Army incident report stated. The Iraqis tried to run away, but Atkins caught one of them and tackled him to the ground.

The Iraqi man detonated a suicide bomb attached to his vest, killing himself and Atkins, the report stated. One other Iraqi blew himself up, and the others fled.

No other soldiers were killed in the incident, said Maj. Garth Scott, the Montana National Guard’s public information officer.

Atkins attended Bozeman High School and Kemper Military School in Missouri, eventually earning his GED, his parents said. After high school, he worked as a painter, poured concrete and worked in a snowmobile shop.

He enlisted in the Army in November 2000, his parents said.

‘‘When he joined the Army, that’s when he found his niche,’’ Elaine Atkins said.

He was initially sent to Iraq for 10 months in March 2003, at the start of the war in Iraq.

After that stint, Atkins left the Army, attended the University of Montana and worked in the building trades, his parents said.

He re-enlisted in December 2005 and was sent back to Iraq last summer.

Atkins had already survived two roadside bombs, said his father, a Vietnam War veteran.

Atkins had an 11-year-old son, Trevor, who lives in Minnesota, his parents said.

He is also survived by a sister, Jennifer, 28, who lives in Washington.

From the Independent Record