Prince William Begins Training for Navy Deployment to Caribbean

Prince William began a stint in the Royal Navy Monday, beginning basic training on a river in southwest England.

The heir to the British throne participated in maneuvers on the River Dart as part of a three-week training session at Britannia Royal Naval college in Dartmouth, England, before he heads for the azure waters of the West Indies, where he'll be on hurricane relief duty and counter-narcotics patrol on board the frigate HMS Iron Duke.

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Senior officers, somewhat embarrassed last month by revelations about William's helicopter escapades as he was earning his Royal Air Force wings, stressed in a pre-deployment briefing that William will not receive special treatment during his Navy assignment, which includes shoreside training in Portsmouth before a five-week stint at sea.

"The rules that will apply to Prince William will be exactly the same as the rules applied to any junior officer," said Rear Admiral Robert Cooling, assistant chief of Naval Staff. "I can tell you that the Royal Navy and the Iron Duke are very much looking forward to showing our future king what we do. It will be a real thrill and a privilege and not a pain for the ship's company."

He said William "commendably wanted to be as close to the front line as possible" but that officers decided he could learn more in a short time by serving on the Iron Duke than by being sent to the Persian Gulf, where the Royal Navy is engaged in a number of operations.

There was also concern that placing William, 25, in the Persian Gulf might have drawn unwanted attention from Britain's enemies.

"We clearly wouldn't have put the prince in the way of a particular threat, and we wouldn't want his presence in a warship in a particular region to have drawn attention from those who might not wish him well," Cooling said.

The prince is scheduled to spend time in every department on the ship, including weapons engineering, logistics, operations, and the ship's helicopter flights. There will be no special accommodations for William, who is expected to bunk with other junior officers, and there will not be special security for the prince while he is at sea, Cooling said.

"He's enormously looking forward to it," said Commander Simon Huntington, who predicted the prince's shipmates would welcome William and respect his privacy. He said the prince would in essence receive an abbreviated version of the normal two-year training most young officers receive.

William is an officer in the Army, but he has also learned to fly helicopters with the Royal Air Force and is now spending time with the Navy and the Royal Marines to round out his military experience.

Richard Kemp, former commander of the British Armed Forces in Afghanistan, said William's plan to spend time on active duty with all branches of the service makes sense in light of his future role as head of the armed forces.

"I think it's a very good idea," he said. "It's very good that at this stage he has a chance to experience all of this and get to know some of the people who will be leading the military and see some of the difficulties that they face."

He said William is likely to adjust quickly to the rigors of life at sea and should thoroughly enjoy it.

Cooling said the prince would probably not take part in boarding parties if the men are likely to come under fire while attempting to intercept drug shipments.

Both William and his younger brother Harry — who was deployed on the front lines in Afghanistan — are continuing a family tradition of Armed Forces service. Their grandfather, Prince Philip, had a long Navy career, as did their father, Prince Charles, and their uncle, Prince Andrew, who flew a Sea King helicopter during the Falklands War.

William drew unwanted attention last month when the press discovered he had landed his Chinook helicopter on his girlfriend Kate Middleton's lawn and also used the military chopper to fly over some of his family's luxurious properties in the British countryside.

Cooling said all William's Navy flights would be "purely business."

In the Navy, William will be known as Sub Lieutenant Wales, the Naval equivalent of his Army status as lieutenant, officials said.

His shoreside training will be a standard sea safety course that will teach him the basics of sea survival, fire fighting, and ship damage repair so that he will not be a burden during an emergency. He will also be taught navigation and boat handling and have a chance to pilot a number of different helicopters while based in Portsmouth.

In many cases he will be flying as a passenger rather than a pilot because he is not yet qualified for a wide variety of helicopters. He is not, for example, fully trained to fly from the deck of a warship.

The Navy also plans to give William firsthand experience on a mine hunter during sea training operations, and he will be submerged in a nuclear attack submarine while it seeks to attack and evade ships and helicopters during training operations, officers said.

On the Iron Duke, William will be expected to cope with the confined spaces that define naval life and will also be required to serve on the 24-hour watches required at sea.

"These warships are not like cruise liners," said Cooling. "It's going to be a lumpy ride. He doesn't know if he's susceptible to seasickness, but if he is, there are pills that can help. It's nothing to be shy about. It happens to the best of us. Nelson got seasick."

Seasick or not, no one is suggesting that the future king will have to do kitchen duty.

Someone else will have to wash the dishes and peel the potatoes.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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