EL CENTRO, Calif. (AP) — Prince Harry will arrive in the United States next week to begin a two-month military helicopter training course to prepare him for combat.
The prince, who is a British Army captain, will start at the Naval Air Facility at El Centro where he will fly Apache helicopters in the remote California desert near the Mexican border. The facility hosts allied troops throughout the year because its hot, dusty conditions replicate Afghanistan's harsh environment and the clear weather allows for constant flying.
"He will be Capt. Wales when he is here," said Capt. Devon Jones, the U.S. commanding officer at the facility. "He will be treated like any other British pilot."
The prince will be among 20 students in the British Army participating in the training that ends at an Air Force station in Gila Bend, Ariz., where they will fire missiles, rockets and cannons from the Apache helicopters.
The course is the final phase of a 16-month training British Army pilots undergo to prepare for deployment.
British Army Lt. Col. Peter Bullen said those who succeed still have a few final steps to complete in Great Britain before they are ready to be sent into combat.
He said the majority of troops who pass the training go on to be deployed to places like Afghanistan, where they will work alongside U.S. troops and coalition forces.
The prince and the other students will not be restricted from going off the bases during their free time, except like U.S. troops, they are barred from crossing the border into Mexico, Bullen said.
El Centro's facility is the winter home of the Navy's Blue Angels and the site where the "Top Gun" movie starring Tom Cruise was filmed.