Prince Harry’s second tour of duty to the frontlines of Afghanistan has ended on a much more successful note than his first. After heading to Camp Bastion at the beginning of September 2012, Harry left on January 21,2013 for a few days of relaxation in Cyprus before heading back to England.
The 20 week deployment saw Captain Wales take a much more direct role in combat than his previous tour. During the ten weeks he spent in Afghanistan in 2007-2008, he worked as a forward air controller in the Helmand Province, directing air attacks.
Still, that position was fairly unsafe, necessitating a media blackout that was of course broken before his tour was complete. Harry knew his best chance of returning to the front would be by becoming a pilot himself.
He entered Apache training in 2010, graduating in January 2012. The Apache training program is intense but Harry earned the award of top gunner co-pilot of his class. Finally, at the end of 2012, he was allowed to head to war again with the third regiment of the 662 Squadron.
This time he was based at Camp Bastion in northern Afghanistan. This sprawling camp serves as the main base for British. Alongside other pilots, Harry was sent out on sorties through the mountainous terrain, conducting deadly attacks on the enemy as well as providing coverage for Chinook helicopters and medical transports. The Apache is a lethal weapon. It is a flying tank that can survive heavy fire and fly at speeds up to 171 mph. It is armed with air-to-surface missiles and fires 625 rounds of 30mm ammunition per minute. Only the very talented fly these expensive pieces of equipment.
This tour was not blanketed by a media blackout. As one reporter said on Twitter, one of the safest places to be was in pilot’s seat of an Apache. Not being based at a forward operating base or conducting foot patrols, Harry’s position in the air and the heavily guarded Camp Bastion seemed to deem such difficult to maintain measures of secrecy unneeded. This decision by the Ministry of Defense was called into question almost immediately when only a week after his arrival Camp Bastion suffered a rare attack. I
Insurgents were able to invade the supposedly impenetrable base and attacked US and UK forces near the very airfield where Harry worked. Getting as close as 100 meters from the prince, Taliban fighters killed NATO troops and destroyed aircraft. But Harry was kept out of harm’s way with the help of SAS protection. Immediately the Taliban claimed his presence spurred the attack but the amount of time needed to plan the sophisticated operation makes this very unlikely. His service provided them with an easy way to guarantee publicity.
Near the end of his tour, the Taliban again made news by releasing a video decrying his, and the British nation’s, involvement in the war. In the video, a warlord called Harry a “Hyena” and accused him of killing innocent civilians while flying drunk. The claims did little to dilute Harry’s image as a dedicated, and qualified, soldier.
Besides such sensationalist claims and the premeditated attack on Camp Bastion, Harry’s deployment went off without a hitch. Measures taken to ensure his safety (as much as one can be safe in the theater of war) along with the safety of his fellow soldiers were a success. Captain Wales was able to successfully complete his duty.
Over the course of three sessions during his tour, Harry gave one of the most revealing interviews he’s ever given. The pooled interview report obtained by the Press Association provided the public with video tours of his personal quarters and aircraft and very frank comments on the media, his brother and his role in the army.
Some of his confessions:
On being a solider: “It’s completely easy to forget about who I am when I’m in the army.”
On using lethal force: “Take a life to save life.”
On Vegas: “I let myself down, I let my family down, I let a lot of people down.” He says he was in a private place, and should’ve expected privacy but in the end was a case of being “too much army and not enough prince.”
On being an uncle: “I can’t wait.” He says it was unfair how William and Kate had to reveal her pregnancy but says “that’s just the media for you.”
On his brother: He says William would like to be given the same opportunity to fight on the frontlines and is probably a bit jealous that isn’t. He adds, “To be honest with you, I don’t see why he couldn’t.
On the media: His father says to he shouldn’t read the papers, as they’re “rubbish” and he’s surprised at how many people do. He claims he does read them but they upset him. Citing mobile phones, Twitter and the Internet he says, “There’s no such thing as a private life anymore.” He frankly tells the reporters interviewing him that he didn’t really want them there but it was part of the “deal.”
On his talents: He claims exams in school were a nightmare but “anything like kicking a ball around or playing PlayStation – or flying – I do generally find a little bit easier than walking”
While commenting on being pulled out of his previous deployment, Harry dramatically ripped off his microphone and ran off to join his fellow pilots on a mission. Throughout the interviews he was distracted, monitoring the activity around him. No doubt in the air rather than facing a reporter was where he wanted to be.
He says he will miss his “office” (the cockpit.) But as determined as his to be an active solider, he will surely see it again soon.