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Prince Harry Returns to Britain After Deployment Disclosed

By Tom Rivers
01 March 2008

With his deployment in Afghanistan no longer secret, Prince Harry, 23, has flown back to Britain. The third in line to the throne was greeted at Brize Norton air base by his father Prince Charles and older brother Prince William. In London, Tom Rivers reports for the VOA.

When details of Prince Harry's tour of duty were disclosed in the media, it became clear that his time at a forward base in volatile Helmand Province was drawing to a close.

In fact, the prince called himself a "bullet magnet."

On Saturday, his father Prince Charles and his older brother Prince William met Harry at Brize Norton air base near Oxford. Charles said he now knows what being a parent of a son or daughter on active duty can do to your nerves.

"While being incredibly proud of Harry, I am, I promise, you equally proud for what it is worth of all of the dedicated service given by all our armed forces," he said.

Reacting to Prince Harry's return, Prime Minister Gordon Brown said the right decision was made to get him out of Afghanistan. He said security considerations for the prince were paramount.

"I think the whole country is going to be delighted that Prince Harry has come back safely, that his security has been protected," he said. "Very grateful for him for the work that he has done in Afghanistan. Very grateful to all the soldiers as he is for all the support they gave him and also for what they are doing for their country."

For ten weeks, the third in line to the throne worked as a forward air controller, a job that included calling in air strikes on Taliban targets.

But when foreign media blew Harry's cover, and the British media followed, defense officials in London activated contingency plans to get Harry out of harm's way and back to Britain.

Although the prince did not complete his tour, former palace spokesman Dickie Arbiter says it was still a successful deployment and the government's agreement with major British media to blackout coverage of Harry did work for a while.

"It did survive for ten weeks, and Harry has got his wish. He has been out there, at the sharp end. Done a job that he has been trained to do and come home, and come home just a little bit earlier than he should have done," he said.

The prince will now have a month of rest and relaxation before resuming his army life.

In comments released to the media earlier this week, Prince Harry said he liked being a normal person. He said about his service in Afghanistan that it was about as "normal" as he would ever get.

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