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Iraq Transition

Iraq tank command for Prince Harry

Story Highlights

• Britain's Prince Harry to be sent to Iraq with his regiment, officials say
• Young royal expected to be deployed near the southern port of Basra
• Harry to carry out a "normal troop commander's role" according to officials
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- Prince Harry, third in line to the British throne, is to join troops serving in Iraq, defense officials confirmed Thursday.

Ending weeks of speculation on the young royal's future, the Ministry of Defense said Harry, 22, will be deployed with his Blues and Royals regiment in May or June this year.

The prince will become the first royal to serve in a war zone since his uncle, the Duke of York, piloted helicopters in the Falklands conflict 25 years ago.

Officials said Harry, who graduated as an officer last year, will serve as a troop commander in charge of several light tank reconnaissance vehicles.

British officials have indicated that Harry, 22, could be kept out of situations that could jeopardize his colleagues amid fears he would be a prize target -- or "bullet magnet" -- for insurgents.

But Harry, who graduated last year from Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst, has insisted he does not want special treatment.

Clarence House, which speaks on behalf of the prince, and the Ministry of Defense said that the prince would carry out a "normal troop commander's role." (Watch the challenges facing Harry in Iraq Video)

In a joint statement, they said: "We can confirm today that Prince Harry will deploy to Iraq later this year in command of a troop from 'A Squadron' of the Household Cavalry Regiment.

"Whilst in Iraq Cornet Wales (Harry's regimental title) will carry out a normal troop commander's role, involving leading a troop of 12 men in four Scimitar armored reconnaissance vehicles, each with a crew of three.

"The decision to deploy him has been a military one... The royal household has been consulted throughout."

The statement also warned of the hazards of press speculation on the exact location where he would serve, highlighting the security risks of the deployment.

"This is like President Bush sending a son to the frontline. The decision is both dangerous and courageous at the same time," said Evening Standard royal correspondent Robert Jobson.

"It is a success for Harry but he has become the number one target for insurgents."

Britain's Press Association quoted a regimental source saying Harry was "over the moon" at the news.

Harry has always said he wanted to put his training into practice.

"There is no way I am going to put myself through Sandhurst and then sit on my arse back home while my boys are out fighting for their country," he said on his 21st birthday.

Defense Minister Des Browne outlined that two squadrons from the Household Cavalry Regiment, of which Harry is part, are to be deployed.

Thursday's announcement comes a day after British Prime Minister Tony Blair announced the phased withdrawal of British forces from the country with the withdrawal of 1,600 troops within coming months. (Watch Blair announce withdrawal Video)

In addition to his uncle, Harry's military service continues a royal family tradition.

His father, Prince Charles, was a pilot with the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy. Harry's grandfather, Prince Philip, had a distinguished career in the Royal Navy.

As the second in line to the British crown, Harry's older brother, William -- while also a military officer -- is not eligible for combat service.

Harry's emerging role as a military officer is a major image change from his reputation as a young hellraiser involved in a series of tabloid newspaper misadventures that have caused embarrassment for Britain's royal family. (Watch how Harry transformed from party boy to soldier prince Video)

Both Harry and his brother have spent their youth in the media spotlight despite appeals for privacy following the death of their mother Diana, Princess of Wales, in 1997.


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