Blue jeans and shirt hanging out at 3am is the standard paparazzi shot.
It’s not quite this week’s image of the Top Gun attack helicopter pilot who arrived Thursday in California for exotically named Exercise Crimson Eagle.
This is Harry’s final stage of being a fully-fledged Apache pilot which he hopes will get him back to Afghanistan. It’s a two-month exercise that starts at the Naval Air Facility El Centro and then, Gila Bend Auxiliary Air Force Base in Arizona. It may not sound like Afghanistan, but it’s hot, dusty, live firing and the clubbing is, limited. Think Lathrop Wells without the bordello.
There are a lot of cynics who say the night-clubbing image is the real Harry. Those cynics don’t include the guys in his cavalry outfit who served with him in Afghanistan in 2008. Young, inexperienced and blue blood maybe. Young blue blood can bleed just as easily - and the army’s not short of aristocrats anyway.
When he was “discovered” to be serving in Afghanistan, the army pulled him out. He was an easy target.
So he went off to flying school. The critics chirped easy-peasy. It’s not. Just two per cent who start flying training get through to pilot strike aircraft. But what next?
Harry has unfinished business. He served in Helmand for ten weeks until an Australian journalist blew his cover. Now he wants to go back. The Apache could be his ticket. After Crimson Eagle, he’ll most likely be with his unit as part of 16 Assault Brigade. The brigade’s next job? Afghanistan.
But if he went, he’d be a number one target for the Taliban. Suppose they got him? Harry’s attitude is simple - he didn’t get to be a whirly bird Top Gun, just to slump his way through yet another groping show at Simon Hammerstein’s, The Box. That too of course, but not just that.