CAMP TAJI, Iraq - Bbbbrrrrwwww...
The motor begins to turn and the bird takes 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, a Reno, Nev. native, believes flying is the best part of being in the Army. "I've always liked planes and the whole idea of flight," Crane says.

Crane is a pilot assigned to 1st Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division. He flies unmanned aerial vehicles.
UAVs provide commanders and other military leaders the information they need to execute battle plans and other vital mission planning. They 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 UAVs differently: "They are just plain awesome!"

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

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

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

The love of flying is not the only thing Crane is interested in. He has another very important hobby; volleyball.

Growing up in Maryland, Crane played on the Junior Olympic Team. When his family relocated to Nevada, he quickly learned that in the West, there are not many opportunities for men to play.

"I was left with staff jobs and managerial positions. It was better than nothing," Crane says with his usual wry grin. "It's where I met my fiancAfA."

When Crane decided to join the Army to fly UAVs, his father, a retired Army colonel, was just as excited for him.

"My Dad started to do research and sent me articles all throughout Basic and AIT. He was 100-percent behind me."

Then his father helped him learn about pursuing volleyball in the Army.

After learning of the All Army teams, Crane quickly jumped at the chance to sign up and play volleyball for the Army, but due to the deployment schedule of 1st BCT, Crane discovered he was unable to apply for the assignment. Now, with the day of redeploying back to his home station of Fort Hood, Texas, drawing near, the dream is becoming a possibility.

"This month I put in a packet to apply for the team," Crane says. "When and if the packet is approved in March, I can go try out. And if it goes well, I'll make the All-Army team!"

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 says with a big smile, "and fly."