Being 'Stuck In Bastion' Not Ideal For Prince Harry

Being "stuck in Bastion" was a common complaint for Prince Harry during his second deployment to Afghanistan.

The 28-year-old royal, who spent 20 weeks flying Apache helicopters in support of troops in war-ravaged Helmand Province, made no secret of his love-hate relationship with the tour.

Harry said he'd prefer to be at a Patrol Base when in Afghanistan

While he enjoyed flying high over the desert in state-of-the-art fighting aircraft, he was itching to be back on the ground like he was five years ago.

He served just 10 weeks in 2007-08 coordinating air attacks on the Taliban with his regiment - the Household Cavalry - before foreign websites broke a news blackout on his deployment.

When he was there, Harry relished being able to mix freely with the locals, and was at times just 500m from the frontline trenches of the insurgents.

This time he lived in the relative safety and comfort of Camp Bastion, the base of British Armed Forces in Regional Command South West, a sprawling military complex in the middle of the dusty Afghan desert.

Standing alongside one of the Apaches on the flight line, he said: “I do enjoy it.

"I think everyone that flies enjoys it because you're giving something back.

"And if this is the only way that I can do it, and by getting back out to Afghanistan, then so be it.

"My choice would have been back out on the ground with my regiment. That sounds quite spoilt when I'm standing in front of this thing - £45 million worth - but I think hopefully my friends and family back home know exactly what I'm talking about."

While he loved the day-job, life on the base was a constant frustration for the co-pilot gunner.

"It is a weird reality, being stuck in Bastion," he said.

"For me, I hate it, being stuck here. I'd much rather be out with the lads in a PB (patrol base). The last job was, for me personally, better."

The thousands of troops stationed at the isolated base go to the canteen for cooked breakfast, lunches and dinners, take their laundry or "dhobi" to the laundrette, and can work out at one of many outdoor and indoor gyms.

They can get a fresh coffee or an alcohol-free beer at the Heroes Bar, pick up Afghan souvenirs at one of the local shops, or even get a takeaway at the Pizza Hut restaurant - a transformed shipping container.

Harry said: "Obviously lots of guys like the luxury and comforts of Bastion, but what's weird, as I said, is we're stuck in Bastion and what's going on out there is completely separate.

"But as soon as we're outside the fence, we're in the thick of it.

"Yes, OK, we're supposedly safe, but anything can go wrong with this thing. But, at the end of the day, we're out there to provide cover and protection for the guys on the ground.

"And once we're on that side of the fence, all this stuff, it's just forgotten about."

Camp Bastion is the largest operational base in the world for the British military, and its aircraft movements make it the equivalent of the UK's fourth busiest airport.

With a perimeter fence of around 25 miles, it is similar in size to Reading and Singapore.

Alongside Bastion are Camp Leatherneck, the base for US forces, and Camp Shorabak, which contains the Afghan National Army.

For most British troops, Camp Bastion is their point of entry into Afghanistan, and where they do some extra training for the environment - Reception, Staging and Onward Integration (RSOI) - before they go out into Helmand Province.

The base is home to thousands of soldiers, but as Harry found, monotony and boredom can be a problem.

Looking at one of the Apache aircraft on the flight line, the royal added: "It is a pain in the arse being stuck in Bastion. Going into the cookhouse with hundreds of people - it's frustrating.

"But then again, I get to fly this thing, so it comes with pros and cons."