back IN ACTION: Prince Harry is an Apache helicopter pilot.
His sudden deployment was revealed in a flurry of publicity yesterday as the palace seeks to dismantle the "Playboy Prince" image following his frolics in a Las Vegas hotel.
The 27-year-old Army captain and Apache helicopter pilot, who spent 10 weeks on the front line in 2007 and 2008, is now on a four-month tour of duty.
The Queen and Prince of Wales were both fully briefed about his return to operations and Charles is "immensely proud of his son", St James's Palace said.
Prince Harry arrived at Camp Bastion in the early hours of yesterday. He gave a thumbs-up to photographers after a long journey on a standard troop flight from RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire before climbing into one of the Apaches to check the weapons.
After about 10 days of acclimatisation and training to hone his skills, Captain Harry Wales – as he is known in the Army – will go out on operations in his role as co-pilot gunner with 662 Squadron, 3 Regiment Army Air Corp.
Marine Ben McBean, who was hailed a hero by Prince Harry after he lost two limbs in the war zone, said the Prince's desire to serve his country was the natural instinct of any soldier.
Mr McBean said: "As a marine, a soldier in general, you want to go to war, you know, you don't just want to say 'I spent 22 years in the forces' – 'Where did you go?' – 'Nowhere'."
The Marine added: "Even though he's a royal, when he went through training he would have gone through exactly the same as everyone else, so mentally and physically he's kind of on the same wavelength as everyone else. Now he's an Apache pilot, again he's going to want to go out there."
Harry has made no secret of his desire to return to active service and has spent the past three years changing the direction of his military career from an armoured reconnaissance troop leader to an Army helicopter pilot in order to be posted back to Afghanistan.
A St James's Palace spokesman said: "He's approached the deployment with a range of emotions like any other soldier and feels both pride and anticipation as he deploys for a job for which he's trained for so long. Prince Harry, like any soldier, considers it a great honour to represent his country in Her Majesty's armed forces wherever it chooses to deploy him."
He reportedly received a dressing-down from a senior officer after his well-publicised nude frolic.
The Prince was a second lieutenant with his regiment, the Household Cavalry, for his first deployment to Afghanistan and worked as a forward air controller. That tour of duty was abruptly ended when foreign media broke a news blackout on reporting details of his service.
Prince Harry's return to frontline duty comes after 18 months of rigorous training, both in the UK and the US.
The Ministry of Defence has chosen to confirm this deployment after a threat assessment concluded that acknowledging his presence in Afghanistan would not put the Prince or his colleagues at further risk.
Harry was greeted at Bastion by the commander of the Joint Aviation Group, Captain Jock Gordon (Royal Navy). He said: "I extend an extremely warm welcome to 662 Squadron, including Captain Wales, who with his previous experience as a forward air controller on operations will be a useful asset to the Joint Aviation Group.
"And working together with his colleagues in the squadron, he will be in a difficult and demanding job, and I ask that he be left to get on with his duties and allowed to focus on delivering support to the coalition troops on the ground."
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