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TAKE A LIFE TO SAVE A LIFE
By James Edgar, Press Association
Prince Harry has confirmed he killed 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.
"Yea, 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 shrugged. "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."
The Prince's deployment with 662 Squadron, 3 Regiment Army Air Corps, allowed him to step back from the public eye, but speaking to reporters while stationed at Camp Bastion he admitted he had "let himself and his family down" by romping naked in a Las Vegas hotel suite just weeks earlier.
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", but he said his father, the Prince of Wales, is always reminding him of his position.
The current third-in-line to the throne was in Afghanistan when it was announced the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are expecting their first child, and he said he was "thrilled" for the couple and "can't wait to be an uncle".
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. However, the Prince revealed he would rather have returned to fight on the frontline alongside troops from his regiment, the Household Cavalry.
He also attacked the media for the "rubbish" they report.
Unlike his last tour of duty, there was no blackout preventing the press from reporting that he was in Afghanistan this time, but an agreement was reached that media would not speculate on his deployment.
Harry was given no special treatment during his tour, and he worked, rested, ate and slept in exactly the same conditions as the other pilots in his squadron.
The Prince flew on deadly sorties over the barren desert - often for hours on end - in support of International Security Assistance Force (Isaf), Afghan National Army (ANA) and Afghan National Police (ANP) fighters.
However, he said the role of British Apache helicopters has changed since their arrival in 2006 with fewer contacts with the enemy than in previous years, as Isaf is increasingly mentoring the Afghan security forces, rather than fighting insurgents directly.
The frequency of engagements fluctuates throughout the year, and winter tours generally have fewer contacts than in the summer.
But Harry said his unit - nicknamed 662 "Royal" Squadron by some - needed to fire their weapons more than the Apache pilots at the same time the previous year.
"That's just the way that it's balanced out," he said. "Mainly due to weather, well whatever, the reasons I don't know."
Apaches are used for a variety of missions in Task Force Helmand, and on most occasions their presence alone is enough to deter the enemy.
Harry flew on planned and unplanned operations during the day and night across his tour, and the Prince said accompanying Chinook helicopters on CASEVAC tasks - known by the call sign Tricky - was the most important role for Apaches.
Harry's frank comments about shooting dead Taliban fighters come as no surprise, as any soldier fighting on the front line in Afghanistan is expected to take on the enemy - and Harry's job as a co-pilot gunner (CPG) is widely known.
He insisted killing the enemy was not what motivated him to become an attack helicopter pilot.
"It's not the reason I decided to do this job," he said. "The reason to do this job was to get back out here and carry on with a job." He explained how the roles of Apaches themselves and the CPGs inside the cockpit have developed since the aircraft were first introduced in Helmand.
"It used to be very much: front seat, you're firing the whole time. "Now, yes we fire when we have to - take a life to save a life - but essentially we're more of a deterrent than anything else.
"We're a hugely reliable asset and the main thing for us is the Tricky escorts. "If guys get injured, we come straight into the overhead, box off any possibility of an insurgent attack because they look at us and just go, 'Right, that's an unfair fight, we're not going to go near them'.
"But occasionally we get taken on, the guys get taken on, even when we're in the overhead. It's a pretty complex job for everybody involved. But it's not just about the shooting, it's about giving the effect to the [enemy] guys on the ground, and that's not always pulling the trigger."
WILLS 'WOULD LOVE TO BE HERE'
By James Edgar, Press Association
The Duke of Cambridge should be allowed to fly helicopter missions in Afghanistan, his younger brother has said.
Prince Harry - who has now completed a 20-week deployment in the war-torn country - insisted the pair are "not special" and revealed William is envious of his tour of duty.
Speaking alongside an Apache attack helicopter at Camp Bastion, the 28-year-old co-pilot gunner (CPG) said there was no reason why the royals should not be in the firing line if troops on the ground are facing the same dangers while taking on the Taliban.
William, 30, the future Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, is an RAF Flight Lieutenant and works as a Search and Rescue Force pilot on Sea King helicopters. Based at RAF Valley on Anglesey in north Wales, he commands missions to help stranded climbers and stricken vessels in the area.
But the second-in-line to the throne has never seen active service because it is considered too dangerous. Harry believes his brother could do a similar job in Afghanistan - flying Chinook helicopters with emergency medical crews on board to pick up casualties.
He said: "I think there is a bit of jealousy, not just the fact that I get to fly this, but obviously he'd love to be out here. And to be honest with you, I don't see why he couldn't. His job out here would be flying the IRT [Immediate Response Team], or whatever, doing Chinook missions. Just the same as us. No one knows who's in the cockpit.
"Yes, you get shot at. But if the guys who are doing the same job as us are being shot at on the ground, I don't think there's anything wrong with us being shot at as well. People back home will have issues with that, but we're not special. The guys out there are. Simple as that."
Any such move to send William to a war zone would make him the first future monarch since George VI - then known as Prince Albert - to have seen active wartime military service. George, who became king in December 1936, served with the Royal Navy during the First World War, including at the Battle of Jutland.
His brother, the then Prince of Wales, who later reigned briefly as Edward VIII, also served in the Great War, as a staff officer behind the front line at the Battle of the Somme.
Captain Wales - as Harry is known in the army - was sent to Afghanistan in September last year with 662 Squadron, 3 Regiment Army Air Corps. He said the brotherly envy works both ways, but they are proud of what they do.
"Before coming out here I was very jealous of my brother," he admitted. "It's operational flying back home. You get all the luxuries of operational flying - the pride, as you call it - and the reward of basically in his case saving people's lives, which is exactly what we try and do as well. And back home he gets to go home to his wife and his dog, whereas out here we don't. We're stuck playing PlayStation in a tent full of men."
The Apache and Sea King helicopters are completely different aircraft to fly, but Harry believes the brothers could switch places. "He could fly this. I'd like to think I could fly his," he said. "His job's very cool, and I think he's doing a wonderful job. Even though he's in the RAF," he joked, unable to resist a brotherly dig at William.
Harry flew on missions all over Helmand Province, providing support to Troops In Contact (TICs), accompanying IRTs to pick up casualties, destroying known Taliban strongholds and acting as a deterrent during routine missions in and around the Green Zone. He is the latest in a long line of royals who have served in the Armed Forces, and the family have a history of flying helicopters.
The Prince of Wales and Duke of York both trained as helicopter pilots, with Andrew taking part in missions in the Falklands War. But Harry revealed it is not just the family association with rotary aircraft that intrigued him and his brother.
"Probably the fact that you can only fit a certain amount of people in a helicopter, therefore no one can follow us - like you guys," he joked with the press. "Our father flew, our uncle's flown, all sorts of people have flown in my family. And I wouldn't suggest that's where it's come from, but it is great fun, and I was given the opportunity in the end, and I couldn't say no to it."
I PROBABLY LET MYSELF DOWN
By James Edgar, Press Association
Prince Harry "let himself and his family down" after pictures of him frolicking naked in Las Vegas emerged on the internet last year. But the 28-year-old royal hit out at the way he was treated by some sectors of the press, insisting he was entitled to privacy.
Just weeks before his deployment to Afghanistan, the high-profile gaffe in a £5,000-a-night hotel suite saw him lapse into the "Playboy Prince" persona he has tried hard to shake off in recent years.
Within hours, the images of the "strip billiards" party were widely available online. One British newspaper - The Sun - defied a request by St James's Palace not to publish them.
"At the end of the day I probably let myself down, I let my family down, I let other people down," Harry said in Camp Bastion. "But at the end of the day I was in a private area and there should be a certain amount of privacy that one should expect. Back home all my close friends rallied round me and were great."
The leaked pictures, in which Captain Wales was seen cupping his privates next to an unnamed naked woman and exposing his bottom, sparked a global debate on privacy last August. They also triggered a web campaign in which troops, their wives, and others around the world showed their solidarity to the Prince by posting naked pictures of themselves on Facebook and other internet sites.
"The guys out here caused chaos by their enormous support," he said. Harry admitted he often struggles adapting to the different personas he needs to assume in his life.
"But it was probably a classic example of me probably being too much army, and not enough Prince. It's a simple case of that," he said.
Before Harry went to Afghanistan, the press were told about his imminent deployment, but asked not to publish details for security reasons. The Prince criticised some newspapers for running the story at the time of the incident, only to print later that his actions were understandable, given the job he was about to start.
He said: "Yes people might look at it, going, 'Yes it was letting off steam, it's all understandable now, he was going off to Afghanistan.' "Well, the papers knew that I was going out to Afghan anyway, so the way I was treated from them I don't think is acceptable."
I CAN'T WAIT TO BE AN UNCLE
By James Edgar, Press Association
Prince Harry has said he "can't wait to be an uncle". The 28-year-old army captain was in Afghanistan when the news broke that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were expecting their first child, but he revealed he called home to congratulate his brother and sister-in-law.
Harry will be replaced as the third-in-line to the throne when the royal baby is born in July this year.
"Obviously I'm thrilled for both of them," he said in Helmand Province about ten days after St James's Palace announced that Kate was pregnant. "It's about time," he joked. "I can't wait to be an uncle."
Asked if he had telephoned William and Kate to congratulate them from Afghanistan, he said: "Of course I have. I had a chat to them."
The Apache pilot revealed the couple were "both very happy" and rubbished press reports he had written a letter or sent Kate a text message. "I didn't send a letter of congratulation like most of the papers said. "How any of the papers think that they know the relationship between myself and my sister-in-law is quite remarkable. But they're wrong, as always.
"I spoke to my brother and her, and they're both very well and both very happy obviously."
After Kate was admitted to hospital with acute morning sickness, the world's press gathered in London, but Harry said he hopes the future Queen can be left in peace in the coming months. He said: "I think it's very unfair that they were forced to publicise it when they were, but that's just the media for you.
"And I literally am very very happy for them, but I just only hope that she and him - but mainly Catherine - hopefully that she gets the necessary protection to allow her as a mother-to-be to enjoy the privacy that that comes with. I seriously hope that's going to be able to happen."
Harry is currently "100% single", according to reports, and his wild antics in Las Vegas before his tour of duty show he is still living up to his "Playboy Prince" reputation.
Asked if there was pressure on him to settle down like his older brother, he said: "I don't think you can ever be urged to settle down. If you find the right person and everything feels right, then it takes time, especially for myself and my brother."
The royal said it will be a slow process. "You ain't ever going to find someone who's going to jump into the position that it would hold," he said. "Simple as that."
All the latest on the world's youngest royals