British deaths in Afghanistan cast shadow over Prince Harry tour
The news from Afghanistan was bad: Six British soldiers missing and believed killed after an armoured vehicle was struck by an explosion.
Halfway around the world, in Jamaica, the bulletin put a sombre veil over the royal tour by Prince Harry, an Army Air Corps captain who coincidently was visiting troops from the Jamaican Defence Force on Wednesday.
Harry, who is expected to deploy to Afghanistan later this year as an Apache helicopter pilot, was due to rappel down a tower at the JDF headquarters with the troops, but news of the British deaths caused him to reconsider.
"Prince Harry does not wish to take part in a military activity which would be deemed peripheral to an Apache pilot," said a spokesman, "on this day when the focus for the British Army should be on its core professional roles and of looking after the bereaved of those tragically killed in Afghanistan."
The Prince started the day on a lighter note, joining fellow soldiers on a 30-metre firing range for a little target practice. "Anyone with a camera want to stand at the other end?" Harry quipped to the media throng documenting the Prince's seven-day tour that has taken him through the Caribbean region.
Firing 16 live rounds, he pumped eight shots each into his two targets, scoring 39 out of 40 using a M4 Rifle and living up to his reputation as a crack shot. During Apache helicopter training last month, he was declared the top co-pilot gunner.
"He did excellent shooting, a perfect grouping with perfect results," Sgt. Anthony Forbes told the Jamaican Gleaner. "He would do well in the Jamaican army."
After autographing the targets "Harry Capt Wales," he watched the rappelling demonstration before boarding a helicopter to the port city of Falmouth.
One of the targets hit by Prince Harry is displayed after a live-firing exercise at the Up Park Camp. The royal was near-perfect on the range. Next to the holes from the 5.56-mm calibre bullets, he signed his autograph. (Reuters)
Harry had a chance to renew an old acquaintance at Up Park Camp. Lt. Kayon Mills had trained in the platoon the Prince at Sandhurst Military Academy.
"What have you been up to?" asked Harry as they two hugged.
"After Sandhurst I came straight back here," replied Mills.
Checking out the lieutenant's bicep, Harry asked if he was still working out and then told the officers around him: "This guy used to be enormous, he used to work out so much."
"It was great catching up," Mills said later. "At Sandhurst he was one of the guys, hard-working, always giving 100%. He knew when it was time to work and when it was time to celebrate."