Sunday, January 14, 2007

EXCLUSIVE: Prince Harry to serve in Iraq war zone

By Ryan Sabey

ACTION man Prince Harry's guts and skill are about to be put to the ultimate test — as his regiment heads to war in Iraq.

The royal family and army top brass all know he will be a prize target for battling insurgents and factions.

But this week 2nd Lieutenant Harry will get special pre-deployment training — including Arabic lessons — with other key members of his Blues and Royals regiment earmarked to serve in Iraq from April.

The two-day course with the Operational Training and Advisory Group (OPTAG) is ONLY given to troops heading for the war zone.

An Army source said: "This training is exclusively for troops given the green light for Iraq.

"They don't waste time, money and manpower on anyone else.

"If a soldier's in OPTAG training for Iraq then he's going, simple as that."


If Harry is sent it will nail widespread speculation that the 22-year-old prince will be kept away from frontline duties because of safety fears.

Harry will be delighted. He has repeatedly told friends he is desperate to serve "like any other officer".

The specialist OPTAG sessions, to be held at the Household Cavalry's barracks in Windsor, Berkshire, will drill Harry and his comrades in basic Iraqi Arabic in a bid to win over the hearts and minds of the people.

Lectures will also deal with local customs, welfare problems and tough living conditions, including extreme weather changes.

An Army insider said: "They are taught words and phrases from a special vocabulary book so that they may address civilians politely but also issue orders and warnings.

"The prince will get instruction on the geography and climate of the region plus specialised drills that have been adapted just for Iraq.

"This ranges from contact drills — what to do if you or your unit is shot at or bombed — to the way sentry duty is carried out. What Harry and rest will get is the benefit of hard-learned lessons passed on by the men and women who've served before them.

"It's a final phase of training prior to deployment.

"The next step is a dress rehearsal exercise carried out by the entire brigade over several days in the UK.

"Once that's complete they're off to do the business."

As part of the build-up to war Harry will also spend a week on exercise with up to 1,000 other men on Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire, next month.

Harry will don a special laser suit that will reveal if he has been "shot" in the hi-tech war games.

Tellingly, Prince William, who is also part of the Blues and Royals but junior to Harry in terms of training, will NOT take part in the exercises or the OPTAG lectures.


Instead, he will embark on a troop leader's course in Bovington, Dorset, for five months starting from March.

As second-in-line to the throne he cannot serve in a war zone.

It has also been confirmed he will quit the army after a year before spending time with the RAF and Navy, combined with royal duties.

But young brother Harry is now set to follow in the footsteps of his uncle Prince Andrew, who served in the 1982 Falklands War flying Sea King helicopters on risky battle missions.

A Clarence House spokesman confirmed: "Prince Harry is undergoing this training but no final decision has been made on whether he will be deployed. That will come shortly."

But an inside source source insisted: "Harry's desperate to go.

"I wouldn't want to be the one telling him he can't get on the plane."

Additional reporting: ROBERT KELLAWAY

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