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Army aviators prepare for role at Royal Wedding

Soldiers who fly and maintain the Apache attack helicopter are preparing to provide ceremonial support to the wedding of HRH Prince Henry of Wales and Ms Meghan Markle.

Prince Harry served with the Army Air Corps at Wattisham Flying Station in Suffolk between 2011 and 2014, including an operational tour of Afghanistan with 3 Regiment Army Air Corps (3 Regt AAC).

At Prince Harry’s wedding on Saturday 19 May, a contingent of 25 soldiers from 3 Regt AAC will line streets on the lower ward outside St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle and present a Royal Salute to the newlyweds. As part of a 250-strong personnel from the Royal Navy, Army and Royal Air Force, their role at the wedding marks the historic and personal bonds between the military and the Royal Family.

3 Regt AAC’s Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel Nick English said: “For the Regiment, it is a huge honour to have had Prince Harry in our ranks and to be on parade at his wedding. But we are proud of the contribution made by all the air and ground crew who served in Afghanistan, the Apache’s first deployment, and we are building on the lessons learnt as we prepare for future operations.”

Corporal Stuart Armstrong, an aviation communications specialist, worked with Prince Harry during his flight training at Wattisham and will be on parade at the wedding.

“While Prince Harry – who was just known as Captain Wales to us – was training, I would be assisting him with mission planning and communications between the ground and air,” he said. “It’s a huge honour for me to be on parade at the wedding and, through working with Prince Harry, to have a personal connection to such a massive global event.”

Operational missions

Prince Harry arrived at Wattisham in May 2011 to carry out Conversion to Role (CTR) training with 656 Squadron, 4 Regiment Army Air Corps after completing flying training on the Apache attack helicopter at the Army Aviation Centre in Middle Wallop, Hampshire. The CTR course, which included a two-month live firing package in Arizona called Exercise Crimson Eagle, taught Prince Harry how to fly and fight the Apache on operational missions.

On completing CTR, Prince Harry joined 662 Squadron, 3 Regt AAC in January 2012 and deployed to Afghanistan with 662 Sqn between September 2012 and January 2013. He left Wattisham in January 2014 to take up a staff job in HQ London District.

Captain Percy Pearce was 662 Sqn’s flying instructor while Prince Harry was with the unit. “He was very down-to-earth and just another pilot in the team, and we all worked together to get the job done,” he said. “I would wish him the best of luck for married life.”

High-readiness unit

3 Regt AAC’s role is to provide a Headquarters and 2 Apache Squadrons to 3rd (UK) Division, the British Army’s high readiness warfighting division. This spring the Battlegroup Headquarters has been in Fort Bragg, North Carolina on Exercise Warfighter, building its ability to work alongside the US Army, while 662 Sqn – which Prince Harry served with – has just returned from Exercise Joint Warrior, flying in support of the Royal Marines during training in Scotland and south west England.