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Prince Harry steps back from attack helicopter pilot role

By Max Foster and Laura Smith-Spark, CNN
updated 7:55 AM EST, Fri January 17, 2014
Prince Harry, left, and Prince William leave the Christmas Day service at Sandringham on December 25 in King's Lynn.
Prince Harry, left, and Prince William leave the Christmas Day service at Sandringham on December 25 in King's Lynn.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Prince Harry moves to a desk job in London, keeps rank of captain
  • The move takes him out of a potential combat role flying Apache helicopters
  • He has served in Afghanistan as a helicopter pilot and gunner
  • Prince "has reached the pinnacle of flying excellence," his commanding officer says

London (CNN) -- Prince Harry is ending his time with Britain's Army Air Corps and is taking a staff officer role in London, Kensington Palace announced Friday.

The move takes him out of a potential combat role flying Apache helicopters and gives him a desk job in London.

His deployments included a four-month stint in Afghanistan's southern Helmand province, known as a Taliban stronghold.

The move to a new role comes at a time of increasing British media speculation about his relationship with Cressida Bonas.

Harry, who is known as Captain Wales to his fellow servicemen, will keep the same rank in his new position.

Prince Harry reaches the South Pole

His responsibilities "will include helping to co-ordinate significant projects and commemorative events involving the Army in London," a Kensington Palace news release said.

Prince Harry spent 3½ years in training and operational service with the Apache Force during his time with the Army Air Corps.

He was awarded the prize for best co-pilot gunner during training and became a fully operational Apache pilot in February 2012.

He qualified as an Apache aircraft commander in July of last year.

Lt. Col. Tom de la Rue, Harry's commanding officer in the Army Air Corps, said: "Captain Wales has reached the pinnacle of flying excellence as an Apache pilot, particularly in Afghanistan and, in the process, has proved to be a real inspiration to the many Army Air Corps officers and soldiers who have come to know him so well over the last two years."

Harry has embraced an increasingly public role in the past couple of years.

In December, he and a team made up of wounded UK veterans reached the South Pole, after a grueling trek across the Antarctic with the Walking With The Wounded charity.

The prince hit the headlines for the wrong reasons in 2012, after he was photographed naked while in his swanky Las Vegas hotel suite with friends and a group of women they had met. The images were widely published on the Internet and by Britain's best-selling tabloid newspaper The Sun.

But in the months preceding that, Harry had won praise from the UK media for embracing a more central public role in support of the Queen in her diamond jubilee year.

This included representing his grandmother at the Olympics Closing Ceremony and on a royal tour to the Caribbean.

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