(LONDON) — Britain’s Prince Harry is back on the front lines in the battle against terrorism in what will be a four-month deployment in Afghanistan.
A newly released video shows the prince, or Capt. Wales as he is known in the British army, arriving Friday in Afghanistan to take part in a top-secret mission to join coalition forces fighting the Taliban. Prince Harry will report to Camp Bastion in Helmand Province in southeast Afghanistan, military officials said.
The prince’s second trip to Afghanistan will entail flying Apache helicopters on various missions, including escorting other helicopters carrying troops and equipment, conducting surveillance missions and targeting Taliban fighters.
Harry, 27, qualified as an Apache helicopter pilot in February after completing a rigorous 18-month training program in the United Kingdom and United States that left him and his fellow trainees, “up to the challenge of operating one the of the most sophisticated attack helicopters in the world,” according to a news release issued by Britain’s Defense Ministry at the time.
Prince Harry was named as the best front-seat pilot, or co-pilot gunner, from his class of more than 20 fellow Apache helicopter pilots at a ceremony in February to mark the end of the training. Harry’s award was one of only two given at the end of the training course and marked the student whose “overall performance during the course is assessed as the best amongst their peer group,” the ministry noted.
U.K. tabloid The Sun broke news in January that the 18-month training program included Harry, who first entered the military in 2005, being hooded and threatened in intense hostage training to prepare him for a possible return to Afghanistan.
Harry, the third in line to the throne, is the first British royal to complete that level of intense training, according to the Sun.
The prince’s first deployment to Afghanistan, in late 2007, was scheduled to last three months but was cut short after 10 weeks when his cover was blown. Harry was immediately removed from the field amid fears he could become a terrorist target.
“At the end of the day, you’re in a war zone and you’re responsible to look after yourself, the guy to the left, and the guy to the right. And I think it’s really that simple,” he told ABC News’ Bob Woodruff in 2011 of his service.
Camp Bastion, where Harry will be based, is the main British base and logistics hub for operations in Helmand. Harry will join more than 28,000 civilian workers and service members, including 12,000 U.S. troops based at the adjoining Camp Leatherneck, at the base.
His return to military duty comes weeks after nude photos of his partying in Las Vegas were leaked on the Internet.
Harry, who, sources told ABC News, was in Vegas blowing off steam before reporting back to military duty, was reportedly caught in the photos after playing a game of strip billiards. The photos, including one of Harry standing and covering his genitals and one in which he is bear-hugging a naked woman, made headlines but did little to derail the image of the much-loved prince, with many in Great Britain laughing it off.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Steve Almasy, CNN
Kevin Liptak, CNN
Stephanie Halasz, Jason Hanna and Livia Borghese, CNN