Britain's Prince Harry returns from Afghanistan

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LONDON -- Capt. Wales is coming home to be Prince Harry once again.

Britain's Ministry of Defense revealed Monday that the 28-year-old prince is returning from a five-month deployment in Afghanistan, where he served as an Apache helicopter pilot with the Army Air Corps. It did not immediately divulge his exact whereabouts.

In interviews conducted in Afghanistan, the third in line to the British throne described feeling boredom, frustration and satisfaction during a tour that saw him fire at Taliban fighters on missions in support of ground troops.

When asked whether he had killed from the cockpit, he said: "Yea, so lots of people have."

He also spoke of his struggle to balance his job as an army officer with his royal role -- and his relief at the chance to be "one of the guys."

"My father's always trying to remind me about who I am and stuff like that," said Prince Harry, the younger son of Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana. "But it's very easy to forget about who I am when I am in the army. Everyone's wearing the same uniform and doing the same kind of thing."

Stationed at Camp Bastion, a sprawling British base in the southern Afghan desert, the prince -- known as Capt. Wales in the military -- flew scores of missions as a co-pilot gunner, sometimes firing rockets and missiles at Taliban fighters.

"Take a life to save a life. That's what we revolve around, I suppose," he said. "If there's people trying to do bad stuff to our guys, then we'll take them out of the game."

Prince Harry's second tour in Afghanistan went more smoothly than the first, in 2007-08, which was cut short after 10 weeks when a magazine and websites disclosed details of his whereabouts. British media had agreed to a news blackout on security grounds.

This time, the media were allowed limited access to the prince in return for not reporting operational details.

A member of the air corps' 662 Squadron, the prince was part of a two-man crew whose duties ranged from supporting ground troops in firefights with the Taliban to accompanying British Chinook and U.S. Black Hawk helicopters as they evacuated wounded soldiers.

He said that while sometimes it was necessary to fire on insurgents, the formidable helicopter -- equipped with wing-mounted rockets, Hellfire laser-guided missiles and a 30 mm machine gun -- was usually an effective deterrent.

Prince Harry shared a room with another pilot in a basic accommodation block made from shipping containers, and passed the time between callouts by playing video games and watching movies with his fellow officers. His security detail accompanied him on base, but not when flying.

"It's as normal as it's going to get," Prince Harry said of the arrangement. "I'm one of the guys. I don't get treated any differently." But he said he still received unwanted attention at Camp Bastion, which is home to thousands of troops.

"For me, it's not that normal because I go into the cookhouse and everyone has a good old gawp, and that's one thing that I dislike about being here," he said. "Because there's plenty of guys in there that have never met me, therefore look at me as Prince Harry and not as Capt. Wales, which is frustrating."

Many of Prince Harry's family have also seen combat -- most recently his uncle, Prince Andrew, who flew Royal Navy helicopters during the 1982 Falklands War. His grandfather, Prince Philip, served on Royal Navy battleships during World War II. Older brother Prince William, who is second in line to the throne, is a Royal Air Force search-and-rescue pilot. He, too, has expressed a desire to serve on the front line, but officials consider it too dangerous.

world


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