PRINCE Harry has revealed how he killed Taliban insurgents during his latest tour of Afghanistan, deeming it necessary to “take a life to save a life.”
The third in line to the throne, who was last night bound for the UK after his second deployment to the war-torn nation came to an end, said he took enemy fighters “out of the game” while flying on scores of missions with his fingers on the triggers of deadly rockets, missiles and a 30mm cannon.
Asked if he had killed enemy combatants while serving his country as an Apache attach helicopter gunner during the 20-week posting, the 28-year-old replied: “Yeah, so lots of people have. The squadron’s been out here. Everyone’s fired a certain amount.”
In a series of candid and wide-ranging interviews designed to coincide with his homecoming, the prince also revealed his regret at letting down his family after romping naked in a Las Vegas hotel, and said he “can’t wait to be an uncle.”
He also spoke of the need to “flip the switch” between his different personas, and admitted going against the advice of his father by reading press reports about him.
The royal, 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.
That work inevitable meant coming into close contact with enemies, and Harry said he had taken at least one life. “Take a life to save a life,” he shrugged, when questioned about it. “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. Life in the army, he said, is “as normal as it’s going to get” for him, and he told of how he relished having the chance to muck in as “one of the guys.”
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.
Within his unit, he enjoyed being treated as just “one of the guys” - Harry to his friends and superiors, Captain Wales to everybody else. “It’s completely normal,” he reflected.
However, he said was still irritated by unwanted attention in the more public places, away from his 130-strong squadron, 3 Regiment Army Air Corps (AAC), adding: “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.”
“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.”
Harry 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.
Away from army life, Harry conceded that he had “let himself and his family down” after pictures of him frolicking naked in Las Vegas emerged on the internet last year. However, the criticised his treatment at the hands of 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.
“At the end of the day I probably let myself down, I let my family down, I let other people down,” he recalled. “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.”
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.
Harry admitted that he always reads press reports about himself, against the advice of his father. He also revealed how he gets regular nudges from Prince Charles reminding him to act more like a prince.
“My father’s always trying to remind me about who I am and stuff like that. But it’s very easy to forget about who I am when I am in the army. Everyone’s wearing the same uniform and doing the same kind of thing. Certain people remind me, ‘Remember who you are, so don’t always drop your guard’.”
Harry believes all soldiers in the army need to be able switch between their private and professional lives, but for him and his brother, there is another persona - that of a royal. Asked if it was difficult to switch between them, he replied: ”No. I think, to be honest with you, it’s the role for anybody in the army, especially the role for myself and William - you’ve got to be able to flip the switch all the time.”
He explained his “three me’s” - “One in the army, one socially in my own private time, and then one with the family and stuff like that. So there is a switch and I flick it when necessary. And I’d like to think that it’s measured and balanced as the way it is. Army comes first, it’s my work at the end of the day.”
‘He enjoys the relative anonymity of deployment’
The Scots commander in charge of Prince Harry during his second tour of duty in Afghanistan has revealed how the young royal enjoyed the “relative anonymity” of his deployment.
Major Ali Mack, the Officer Commanding 662 Squadron, 3 Regiment Army Air Corps, stressed that Captain Wales was given “no special treatment” during his tour, and performed “very well”.
Maj Mack, 37, from Glasgow, emphasised there was nothing “safe or routine” about flying a helicopter in Afghanistan, and said the fleet had endured an “extremely busy” time in recent months.
In an a interview about the prince’s experiences with the squadron, Maj Mack likened his unit to a family and said the prince had settled in quickly when he arrived in September last year.
He said: “He is, as far as I’m concerned, given no special treatment. 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.
“I think he enjoys the relative anonymity of being in theatre, where he is allowed to get on with his daily business relatively unmolested.
“As a squadron we are very much one big family.”
While Prince Harry’s deployment to Afghanistan was labelled by some as “cushy” and “safe,” courtesy of the fact that he was stationed at Camp Bastion and had the fearsome weaponry of his Apache at his disposal, Maj Mack said that the prince was up against a committed enemy, capable of targetting such aircraft.
“I can safely say there’s nothing regarded safe or routine about flying in Afghanistan,” he said.
Playstation skills just the ticket for flying Apaches
Prince Harry acknowledged he was never academic, describing exams as a “nightmare”, but said flying came naturally to him.
The prince said he relished sporting activities and computer games, and took pride in the fact he excelled in helicopter training, coming top of his class.
Recalling his education at Ludgrove and Eton College, he said: “Exams were always a nightmare, but anything like kicking a ball around or playing PlayStation – or flying – I do generally find a little bit easier than walking.”
Harry said being selected for the Apache co-pilot gunner course came as a surprise because he lacked academic qualifications. He said: “The army presume you to be less intelligent, which is nice of them – probably true.”
He suggested his gaming skills stood him in good stead in a helicopter, adding: “It’s a joy for me – with my thumbs, I like to think I’m probably quite useful. You can ask the guys, I thrash them at Fifa.”