Soldier deaths affect Prince Harry's Jamaica plans

March 7, 2012 - 7:06 PM
APTOPIX Jamaica Prince Harry

Britain's Prince Harry dances during a visit to the non-governmental organization RISE ( Reaching Individuals through Skills and Education ) in Kingston, Jamaica, Tuesday March 6, 2012. Harry is touring the Caribbean as part of a Diamond Jubilee tour in honor of Queen Elizabeth II as she celebrates 60 years on the throne. (AP Photo/Collin Reid)

KINGSTON, Jamaica (AP) — The lighthearted tone of Prince Harry's Caribbean tour changed Wednesday as the British royal modified his schedule at a military camp in Jamaica out of respect for six British soldiers killed in Afghanistan.

Harry, a British Army captain who recently qualified as an Apache attack helicopter pilot, was scheduled to rappel down a new training wall at a Jamaican military camp in the capital of Kingston but instead watched local soldiers do so.

Palace press officer Nick Loughran said Harry decided not to take part in a military activity considered peripheral to the duties of an Apache pilot when the day's focus should be on the British Army's core roles and "looking after the bereaved of those tragically killed in Afghanistan."

Six British soldiers were killed Tuesday evening when an explosion hit their armored vehicle in southwestern Afghanistan, according to Britain's Ministry of Defense. It is the biggest loss of life for British forces in the country since a plane crash in 2006.

Dressed in camouflage, helmet, protective goggles and a flak jacket, Harry did take part in target practice, firing rounds with a M4 rifle on an outdoor 30-meter (98-foot) range at the Jamaica Defense Force's Up Park Camp. He scored 39 out of 40 on two targets.

"He's an excellent shot," said Jamaican military Sgt. Anthony Forbes, holding up one of the paper targets which the prince autographed "Capt. Wales," as the third-in-line to the British throne is known in the British military.

Before getting down in the dirt for target practice, a grinning Harry quipped to the dozens of photographers behind him filming his every move: "You're at the wrong end. Anyone with a camera want to stand at the other end?"

Afterward, the 27-year-old prince co-piloted a helicopter to Jamaica's north coast town of Falmouth, where he toured a cruise ship pier and attracted the attention of numerous dazzled tourists, especially scores of young women who called after the red-haired royal.

He later stopped off at an 18th century plantation house called Good Hope and was scheduled to be feted at the Sandals Royal Caribbean resort in Montego Bay.

Harry is touring the Caribbean as part of a Diamond Jubilee tour in honor of Queen Elizabeth II as she celebrates 60 years on the throne. The prince, who made earlier stops in the Bahamas and Belize, arrived by private jet and received a 21-gun salute from members of the Jamaica Defense Force.

Harry is scheduled to depart Jamaica on Thursday, and has no public events outside his official farewell at Montego Bay's international airport. He plans to travel to Brazil at the request of the British government on a trip to promote ties and emphasize the transition from the upcoming 2012 London Games to the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

___

David McFadden on Twitter: http://twitter.com/dmcfadd