- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 22, 2007

LONDON — Prince Harry, third in line to the British throne, is getting his wish to serve in Iraq.

The Ministry of Defense ended speculation that had been swirling for about a week by announcing yesterday the 22-year-old prince will be sent to Iraq with his Blues and Royals regiment in May or June.

Harry, a second lieutenant, will assume a troop commander’s role.

Prime Minister Tony Blair said Wednesday that British troop deployments will be cut by 1,600 in the coming months and that all bases except for Basra Palace and Basra Air Base will be handed over to Iraqi forces.

The narrowing of the British presence to the two locations in southern Iraq will mean any insurgent groups looking to target Troop Commander Wales — as Harry is known to his colleagues — will not have to look far to find him. That has led to some concern that his presence could bring an extra risk to his fellow soldiers.

He will lead 12 men in four armored reconnaissance vehicles and could become the first royal to see combat since his uncle Prince Andrew served in the Falklands War against Argentina in 1982.

The second son of the late Princess Diana, Harry has been a frequent face on the front of Britain’s tabloid newspapers, which have provided a constant stream of coverage of his party lifestyle at some of London’s liveliest nightspots.

He has also acknowledged drinking before the legal age and smoking marijuana. In January 2006, he issued an apology after being pictured in a newspaper at a costume party dressed as a Nazi, including a swastika armband.

But he has been serious about joining “my boys” in Iraq. After graduating from Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst, he insisted on getting the opportunity to serve his country.

“There’s no way I’m going to put myself through Sandhurst and then sit … back home while my boys are out fighting for their country,” he said in an interview to mark his 21st birthday. “That may sound very patriotic, but it’s true.”

The ministry has previously said that Harry could be kept out of situations where his presence could jeopardize his comrades.

In joining the military, Harry followed a royal tradition. His father, Prince Charles, was a pilot with the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy, and a ship commander. Harry’s grandfather, Prince Philip, had a distinguished career in the Royal Navy during World War II.

Prince Andrew was a Royal Navy pilot.

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