Just weeks after photographs of a naked Prince Harry surfaced online, the third-in-line to the British throne looks set to prove he’s not just a party prince — by spending four months on the front lines in Afghanistan. The U.K.’s Ministry of Defence on Friday announced the prince’s arrival at Camp Bastion in Helmand Province, the country’s largest military base, where he will begin a tour as an Apache pilot.
And we know what you’re thinking — but no, it’s not punishment for his recent scandalous antics. The Ministry of Defence assured that Harry’s deployment has been planned for some time.
Known as Captain Wales while on duty, Harry qualified as Co-Pilot Gunner in February. As part of the Joint Aviation Group (JAG), his role in Afghanistan will largely involve giving helicopter support to the both Afghan forces and the International Security and Assistance Force (ISAF).
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Captain ‘Jock’ Gordon RN, Commander of the JAG, said in statement: “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. Working alongside 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 coalition forces on the ground.”
The relative openness of the British military towards Harry’s deployment is in stark contrast to the prince’s previous deployment to Helmand Province in late 2007, when he spent 10 weeks on duty. While it was at the time widely known among the British media, it was not reported on, following an agreement with the Ministry of Defence for a news blackout until he was safety returned home. The agreement was effectively nullified after an Australian magazine brought it to light, and other international publications reported on it. Shortly after, the prince was soon withdrawn due to safety concerns.
So what’s changed now? As quoted in the Daily Telegraph, a Ministry of Defence spokesperson said: “The circumstances of this deployment are very different from last time. The risks to him and his unit based on the capability, opportunity and intent of the insurgency have been assessed and the decision was taken that Captain Wales should be deployed.” The Daily Telegraph notes that no Apaches have been brought down by enemy fire in the five years that they have been used in Afghanistan, meaning the MoD has ascribed a modicum of safety to Prince Harry’s mission.
But he’ll still be entering a war zone, which means international media will be devoid of any more wild antics by the rebellious royal. That infamous VIP suite in Las Vegas where the bare-all snaps were taken have been swapped for more basic accommodations.
While as an Apache pilot, he’ll get the relative luxury of an air-conditioned room instead of a tent, the Guardian reports that his entertainment will be limited to watching news and sports channels on television or frequenting Camp Bastion’s bar. The prince will be out of luck if he’s hoping to enjoy a pint there; in keeping with the base’s regulations, it doesn’t serve alcohol. But, we hear there’s a billiards table at the bar, so perhaps he shouldn’t swear off another round of “strip billiards.”