Dana Atkins was born in Portland, Oregon, in 1955. He enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in 1972, and then received a four-year Air Force ROTC scholarship to the University of Portland, where he received his commission as a 2nd Lt on May 23, 1977. Lt Atkins went on active duty beginning June 1, 1978, and then completed Undergraduate Pilot Training at Reese AFB, Texas, in June 1979. He next served as an instructor pilot with the 54th Flying Training Squadron of the 64th Flying Training Wing at Reese AFB from October 1979 to July 1982, followed by service as an A-10 Thunderbolt II pilot and an A-10 demonstration pilot with the 81st Tactical Fighter Wing at RAF Bentwaters, England, from January 1983 to December 1985. Capt Atkins served as an operations inspector with the Inspector General Team at Headquarters U.S. Air Forces in Europe at Ramstein AB, West Germany, from January 1986 to June 1987, and then transitioned to the F-16 Fighting Falcon and served as left wingman for the Thunderbirds based out of Nellis AFB, Nevada, from June 1987 to December 1989. He attended Armed Forces Staff College at Norfolk, Virginia, from January to June 1990, and then served on the staff of the Commander in Chief of North American Air Defense Command and the Chief of Staff of Headquarters Air Combat Command at Langley AFB, Virginia, from June 1990 to February 1993. Col Atkins was commander of the 74th Fighter Squadron at Pope AFB, North Carolina, from February 1993 to June 1994, and then attended National War College at Fort McNair, Washington, D.C., from June 1994 to June 1995. His next assignment was on the staff of the Joint Staff at the Pentagon from June 1995 to May 1997, followed by service as commander of the 8th Operations Group at Kunsan AB, South Korea, from June 1997 to June 1998. He was on the staff of the Supreme Allied Commander Europe in Belgium from July 1998 to January 2000, and then served as the commander of the 20th Fighter Wing at Shaw AFB, South Carolina, from January 2000 to June 2001. He served on the staff at Headquarters U.S. Air Force in the Pentagon from June 2001 to July 2002, and then served as commander of the 35th Fighter Wing at Misawa AB, Japan, from July 2002 to April 2004. Gen Atkins was vice commander of 7th Air Force and U.S. Air Forces Korea at Osan AB, South Korea, from April 2004 to December 2005, followed by service as Director of Operations for Headquarters U.S. Pacific Command at Camp Smith, Hawaii, from January 2006 to January 2008. He then served as special assistant to the Commander of Pacific Air Forces at Hickam AFB, Hawaii, from January to April 2008. His final assignment was as commander of Alaskan Command at Elmendorf AFB, Alaska, from January 2008 until his retirement from the Air Force on January 1, 2012.
His Distinguished Flying Cross Citation reads:
Major Dana T. Atkins distinguished himself by extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight as Left Wingman, United States Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron, "Thunderbirds", Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, from 5 November 1987 to 20 December 1989. During this period, Major Atkins skillfully flew 159 official air demonstrations before over 20 million spectators throughout the United States, Canada, and Mexico. In his two years as a Thunderbird, he participated in more than 1,000 public relations events ranging from visiting childrens' hospitals to national television appearances. He deployed over 400 days and flew in excess of 152,000 accident-free miles while exhibiting the capabilities of Air Force pilots and their combat aircraft. Major Atkins' consistently professional performance in a strenuous airborne environment exemplified his outstanding proficiency and devotion to duty. The professional competence, aerial skill, and devotion to duty displayed by Major Atkins reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.