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Drone operator home from year-long tour

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Updated: 4/30/2013 10:24 pm
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Family and friends lined up at Jacksonville International Airport, eagerly awaiting the arrival of a local Navy reserve officer.

It was a hero’s homecoming filled with smiles, signs and plenty of big hugs.

Cmdr. Rex Benedict, of Jacksonville, didn’t expect a welcome home party when he stepped off the plane Tuesday.

“It's awesome. These family and friends are great and I just had the best support group back behind me which is essential for going on a long deployment like that,” said Benedict.

He was deployed for almost a year as an officer in charge. Benedict oversaw the operation of a drone from a base in Afghanistan. The unmanned aircraft was used to collect intelligence and surveillance.

It's been a controversial tool used by the military. But Benedict says it saved lives of soldiers on the ground by spotting IEDs.

“Especially in saving lives by finding IEDs or finding Taliban or finding other devices intended to blow up coalition forces,” said Benedict.

Benedict plans to retire from the Navy Reserves in August after 31 years with the Navy.
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