Happy Prince Harry is off to war
Prince Harry was said to be "over the moon" as it was announced he is to serve in Iraq.
The Ministry of Defence confirmed that the third in line to the throne will be sent to the war zone with his men in the Blues and Royals this year.
But the decision has raised concerns for his safety because of his "celebrity" status.
Experts say Harry, 22, will be the "No.1 target" for insurgents as someone whose face is known around the world.
Defence sources said Harry would be treated "like any other soldier in his regiment" and he would be upset at suggestions he would get special protection.
Harry, pictured here in 1993, has always wanted to serve in the British Army
But because of his royal status military chiefs are understood to have put in place detailed plans.
Sources say a team of SAS men will be on stand-by to shadow the prince - ready to intervene if necessary. A member of the special forces said: "A team has been preparing for this announcement.
"The prince himself may not even be aware of it. He will not be stopped from fulfilling his full military role. But it would be a dereliction of duty for military chiefs not to be prepared for the worst and hand the insurgents a chance to make a devastating impact.
"A full recce has been carried out. We don't want to take any chances."
One fear is of Harry being kidnapped by al Qaeda and paraded on the internet in a devastating publicity coup. There is also concern that Iranian-backed Shia insurgents would try to kill him.
The prince is a cornet, equivalent of second lieutenant, in the Household Cavalry. He will become the first member of the royal family to serve in a war since his uncle Prince Andrew flew helicopters in the Falklands 25 years ago.
Harry has made it clear since joining the Army that he wants to serve his country "just like any other soldier". He had told friends that he would quit the Army if he was not allowed to serve with his fellow soldiers in Iraq.
Defence Secretary Des Browne told MPs which military units will be sent to Iraq in April as part of a long-planned rotation of troops.
Despite the timing of his posting, it is understood that Harry will be allowed home twice to attend a memorial service and pop concert for Princess Diana this summer.
Mr Browne's announcement came a day after Tony Blair revealed that the number of Britain's troops in Iraq will be reduced from 7,100 to 5,500 as soon as security responsibilities are handed over to local forces.
This batch of 1,600 troops could be home in the next few months.
The prince's unit can expect a six-month tour of duty in southern Iraq. The squadron is expected to be deployed as part of a Household Cavalry detachment when 1 Mechanised Brigade replaces 19 Light Brigade.
Defence experts said the decision to send Harry was part of the Army's "business as usual" ethos. He graduated from Sandhurst last April and qualified as an armoured reconnaissance troop leader in October.
Known as "Troop Commander Wales" in his regiment, he is trained to command 11 soldiers and four Scimitar armoured vehicles. After becoming an officer he said he wanted to see action, adding: "There's no way I'm going to put myself through Sandhurst, and then sit on my arse back home while my boys are out fighting for their country."
As part of the reduction in UK troop numbers announced on Wednesday, British forces are expected to leave Basra. But a substantial battlegroup will remain based at the air station outside the city.
The force will be backed up by two infantry battalions and will be on hand to help Iraqi troops should they lose control.
There are concerns at the prospect of increased violence as Shia insurgents see the British leave and stepup their attacks on the remaining base, or the political power struggle within Basra worsens, forcing the UK military to intervene.
President Bush's critics seized on the withdrawal as evidence that the coalition was crumbling.
Secretary of state Condoleezza Rice insisted the alliance "remains intact" and Vice-President Dick Cheney said Britain's move was a sign of progress.
But Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy said: "No matter how the White House tries to spin it, the British Government has decided to split with President Bush and begin to move their troops out of Iraq."
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