By Sgt. Jessica Reaves

Special to the Hood Herald

CAMP TAJI, Iraq - The motor turned and the bird took off into the breaking dawn.

If you've been on Camp Taji long enough, you've heard it; it sounds like something between a lawnmower and a leaf blower.

Spc. James Crane believes flying is the best part of being in the Army.

"I've always liked planes and the whole idea of flight," Crane said.

Crane is a pilot assigned to 1st Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division. He flies unmanned aerial vehicles.

Unmanned aerial vehicles provide commanders and other military leaders the information they need to execute battle plans and other vital mission planning.

The vehicles have the ability to be sent into the action, when leaders need to see what is going on in a specific area.

Although admitting they are important to the mission, Crane sees flying unmanned aerial vehicles differently.

"They are just plain awesome," he said.

"I was a civilian pilot and I just wanted to keep flying. By flying, you get to see things in a different way," he said.

Before entering the Army, Crane flew fail planes, or gliders - something that wouldn't seem that likely considering his 6-foot, 7-inch towering figure.

"There's just something so freeing about coasting through the air," he said.

When Crane decided to join the Army to fly unmanned aerial vehicles, his father, a retired Army colonel, was excited for him.

"My dad started to do research and sent me articles all throughout basic and AIT (advanced individual training). He was 100 percent behind me," Crane said.

Like most soldiers who dream of the day they step back on U.S. soil, Crane has many plans for when he returns.

"After we get back, all I want to do is get married, play volleyball," he said with a big smile.

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