Prince Harry, who has been keeping a relatively low profile since his embarrassing trip to Las Vegas last month, began a four-month tour of duty in Afghanistan Friday.
Although media outlets voluntarily opted to keep silent about the news until Friday at the request of the U.K.'s Defense Ministry and Buckingham Palace, which cited "security purposes," a formal announcement was made by the ministry Friday.
"Captain Wales [as Prince Harry is officially known in the military] is a serving soldier and a qualified Apache pilot having completed the Apache Conversion to Role course earlier this year," Lt. Col. Tom de la Rue, the deputy commander of the Joint Aviation Group and the commanding officer of 3 Regiment Army Air Corps in the U.K., said in a prepared statement. "As such, and after further flying experience, he has deployed along with the rest of the squadron as part of a long-planned and scheduled deployment to provide support to [International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF] and Afghan forces operating in Helmand."
The announcement of the royal's deployment was met with sympathy and well-wishes from celebrities, including Lindsay Lohan, who tweeted, "[J]ust sending love, prayers and strength to #PrinceHarry."
Prince Harry will be based at Camp Bastion in Helmland Province, the same region where he served four years ago as an on-the-ground forward air controller, according to the U.K.'s Defense Ministry. The province, where both the U.K. and the U.S. are actively involved in ongoing fighting against the Taliban, is still considered "one of the most volatile regions in the country," Reuters reported.
But the U.K.'s Defense Ministry downplayed the danger involved, saying that Harry's role as an Apache helicopter pilot this time around will be a safer one for him. So far, none of the Apaches have been shot down, according to the Independent,
Prince Harry's arrival at Camp Bastion came one day after a precision airstrike killed a Taliban cell leader in the area. According to ISAF, the Taliban leader, named Ajmal, was "believed to have commanded an attack cell and directed insurgent activity throughout western Helmland, including multiple attacks on Afghan security forces."
In a CBS News interview in March, Prince Harry noted he was anxious to return to active duty, pointing out: "You can't train people and then not put them into the role they need to play. For me personally, as I said, I want to serve my country. I've done it once, and I'm still in the Army, I feel as though I should get the opportunity to do it again."
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