Cmdr. Atkinson is a native of Wakefield, Rhode Island. He received his commission in 1995 through the NROTC program at George Washington University earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in East Asian studies from the Elliot School of International Affairs. He completed flight training and was designated a naval aviator in May 1998. Cmdr. Atkinson has served as an operational planner at multiple three and four-star commands, served with Air Force Special Operations Command in a personnel exchange program and served tours with Fleet Carrier Air Wings. He has been a Western Pacific sailor for 24 years.