A Fort Bragg-based Special Forces soldier charged with trying to take explosives on board an airplane on New Year's Eve said he didn't know there was a block of C-4 in his bag, which he said he hadn't used since he returned from a deployment to Afghanistan.
Trey Scott Atwater, 30, was stopped by Transportation Safety Administration officials in both directions as he traveled over the holidays. The first time was as he left Fayetteville on Christmas Eve on his way to visit relatives in Midland, Texas, and the second was Dec. 31 as he and his family were leaving Midland to come back to North Carolina.
According to an affidavit filed in the case in Texas, TSA officers confiscated a smoke grenade they found in Atwater's carry-on bag as he boarded his plane in Fayetteville, but let him go with an admonishment. Officers in Midland, however, alerted the Federal Bureau of Investigation when they found a block of plastic explosives in Atwater's carry-on, and Atwater now faces federal charges.
Sgt. 1st Class Atwater is an instructor in the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School at Fort Bragg, and told investigators he is a demolitions expert.
The affidavit implies the C-4 came home with Atwater from Afghanistan; it doesn't say why he would have brought the items back in his luggage, but says he told investigators he was surprised to learn they were there.
A spokesman for the Special Forces Command at Fort Bragg did not immediately return calls to discuss how a soldier could have left a combat deployment with explosives in his luggage.
During an interview with two FBI agents, Atwater said he had deployed with the 7th Special Forces Group to Afghanistan, his third tour there, returning in April 2011.
According to the affidavit, “Atwater further explained that his Special Forces Team had a Special Operating Procedure which was to carry at least two blocks of C-4 on any operation. Atwater said that he usually carried much more due to his specialty. When Atwater left Afghanistan, he said he packed his bags, to include the bag where the explosives were found, and had no recollection of there being any C-4 contained therein.”
The affidavit said Atwater told agents that he had not used the bag since returning from Afghanistan and that it had been in the garage at his home in Hope Mills, until he grabbed it to carry items for his children on the flight to Texas.
Atwater said he had not used C-4 in any training since returning from his deployment.
The affidavit said that during his interview with agents in Texas, Atwater didn't mention having been stopped in Fayetteville with the smoke grenade until one of the agents asked him about it. The agent said Atwater acknowledged that it had happened and said he forgot to mention it earlier.
Atwater is being held in the Midland County Jail. A spokeswoman for the federal court in Midland said Atwater is scheduled to have a detention hearing at 2 p.m. Friday, where a judge could decide whether to continue to hold him or release him with or without bond.