By James Edgar, Press Association
Tuesday, January 22, 2013
Prince Harry has confirmed he fired on Taliban insurgents during his latest tour of Afghanistan.
As a gunner in Apache attack helicopters, the royal flew on scores of missions with his fingers on the triggers of deadly rockets, missiles and a 30mm cannon.
And now that the 28-year-old is bound for the UK after his second deployment to the war-torn country, it can be reported he took enemy fighters “out of the game” during his 20-week posting with 662 Squadron, 3 Regiment Army Air Corps – based at Wattisham Airfield near Needham Market in Suffolk.
“Yeah, so lots of people have,” he said matter-of-factly, after being asked if he had killed from the cockpit.
“The squadron’s been out here. Everyone’s fired a certain amount.”
Harry, who is known as Captain Wales in the army, was sent on all manner of missions over Helmand Province in southern Afghanistan, from supporting allied troops fighting the Taliban at close quarters to accompanying British Chinook and US Black Hawk helicopters on daring casualty evacuation (CASEVAC) missions.
His work as a JTAC (Joint Terminal Attack Controller) during his first tour of duty in 2007-08 saw him call in air strikes on enemy positions, which he watched unfold on a monitor nicknamed “Kill TV”.
This time, it was him in the hot seat.
“Take a life to save a life,” he said. “That’s what we revolve around, I suppose.
“If there’s people trying to do bad stuff to our guys, then we’ll take them out of the game, I suppose.”
Life in the army is “as normal as it’s going to get” for Harry and he relishes having the chance to muck in as “one of the guys”.
Captain Wales was hailed by his colleagues and superiors for fitting into his unit well and for being “on top of his game” during the “extremely busy” and dangerous tour.
Away from camera lenses, media speculation and royal engagements, he could get on with his day job in relative anonymity.
Within his unit he was just “one of the guys” - Harry to his friends and superiors, Captain Wales to everybody else.
“It’s completely normal,” he said while on duty at the Apache flight line in Camp Bastion.
The royal lived in a shared room in an accommodation block made of modified shipping containers with another attack helicopter pilot and had the freedom to walk around the base, to visit the gym, eat in the canteen and drop off his laundry.
However, he was still irritated by unwanted attention in the more public places, away from his 130-strong 662 Squadron, 3 Regiment Army Air Corps (AAC).
“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 Captain Wales, which is frustrating.
“Which is probably another reason why I’d love to be out in the PBs (patrol bases), away from it all.
“But yeah, it’s completely normal. It’s as normal as it’s going to get. I’m one of the guys. I don’t get treated any differently.”
Like other members of his immediate family, Harry is always accompanied by officers from SO14, the Metropolitan Police Royal Protection Branch.
However, in Camp Bastion the small detail assigned to him had a lighter touch than usual, and when the prince was “outside the wire” flying on missions, they remained at the base.
Harry’s closest friends in his unit - nicknamed 662 “Royal” Squadron by other AAC soldiers - were the other crew members on his flight of two aircraft.
While on duty waiting for call-outs they played the military board-game Uckers, watched films, played computer games and chatted.
Captain Simon Beattie, the commander of Harry’s flight of four men, is also a co-pilot gunner and has known the prince for over a year.
“It’s easy to put aside the fact he’s the third-in-line to the throne,” the 30-year-old from Bath said.
“He’s a normal guy. He’s someone I consider a friend and someone I enjoy working with, so it’s not something you notice.”
Does he think twice before unleashing some military banter on the royal?
“Not at all, because he’s pretty forward on the banter as well,” he said.
“It’s just part of us all being together.
“If you put a group of guys together anywhere, take the beers out of the equation, you still get the fun and the messing around that happens.”
Sergeant James John, another pilot in 662 Sqn, said: “Captain Wales is just another member of the squadron and another member of our flight, and we all work together, the same as we would with anyone else that comes in and out of the crews, so it’s a situation-no-change.”
The 27-year-old from Bridgend in south Wales revealed Harry’s closest colleagues are protective of him and try to help him lead an ordinary life.
“It’s important to have a normal job, I imagine, in such a high-profile place,” he said.
“It’s nice to be able to just get on and do your job, which is what everyone tries to give him while he’s here, and he’s finding it great.”
Harry’s squadron commander, Major Ali Mack, likened his unit to a “family”, and said the royal settled in quickly when he arrived in September last year.
“He is, as far as I’m concerned, given no special treatment,” the 37-year-old from Glasgow said. “I treat him very much as I do the rest of my officers within the squadron.
“He responds very well to that and I think he enjoys being part of the squadron fabric.”
Maj Mack, the Officer Commanding 662 Sqn, 3 Reg AAC, added: “I think he enjoys the relative anonymity of being in theatre where he is allowed to get on with his daily business relatively unmolested and as a squadron we are very much one big family.”
To see part two of the video click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rvs3897ehnQ&feature=youtu.be