CBSN

Prince Harry Back From The Afghan Front

Britain's Prince Harry, 2nd left, alights from military plane at RAF Brize Norton, England, on his return from military service in Afghanistan, Saturday March 1, 2008. Third in line to the British throne Prince Harry, a Blues and Royals 'Cornet' or Second Lieutenant, has spent the past 10-weeks working as a battlefield air controller and Spartan reconnaissance vehicle commander in Afghanistan. (AP Photo / John Stillwell, PA) ** UNITED KINGDOM OUT - NO SALES - NO ARCHIVES **
AP Photo/John Stillwell/PA
If Prince Harry's deployment to Afghanistan was a big secret, his return couldn't be more public.

He was a normal soldier, it was said, when he was in Afghanistan. But he's a royal prince with a significantly changed reputation as he comes home, reports CBS News correspondent Mark Phillips in London.

An airbase west of London is the main transit point for British troops moving in and out of Afghanistan and Iraq, but few returns draw this kind of welcome: Prince Harry's father, Prince Charles, and his brother, Prince William, were two unusual members of the welcoming committee.

Harry had described his experience in Afghanistan as the most "normal" life he's ever likely to be allowed to live, but as he started his trip home, Prince Harry's normalcy was beginning to drop away.

A Prince may put his own bags through the X-ray screener - but somebody is there to help him at the other end.

Harry and the British military had hoped his tour of duty might extend into April. But when news of it broke and his cover was blown, the game was up - as he knew it would be.

He told an interviewer, "Once this film comes out, there will probably be every single person who supports them will be trying to slot me, but now that you come to think about it, it is quite worrying."

And worrying as well for the families of those troops who were with him. Harry's nickname is "Bullet Magnet," and once it was known where he was, those other troops became potential targets, too.

"While no one knew he was there, it wasn't a problem," said Steve Robert, stepfather of a British soldier. "I think once it became public knowledge, common knowledge, the fact that he's come home, we are quite relieved."

(Cpl Rich Denton/MoD Crown/PA, AP)
Now that he's out of the country, the extent of his duties in Afghanistan is being released. He patrolled a tense area in the south of the country in which the Taliban has been active, looking for insurgents who might be trying to slip through allied lines. He worked as a forward air controller calling in air strikes in support of ground troops.

Harry had been disappointed when he wasn't allowed to go to Iraq. This secret tour to Afghanistan seems to have made up for it.

"I guess I hope the public will think, you know, 'Good on him.' Hopefully they won't think too much on it and what will people think in sending him out there. At the end of the day, you know, I am just a human being, I am a normal person like these guys are."

(Press Association via AP Images)
Whether it was part of the plan or not, the public relations fallout from Harry's war zone experience has been a bonanza for the royal family, and for him. His reputation as a partying prince has been changed. Now he's a warrior prince, a hero prince.

He's says he's the same guy he was when he left, but the next time he's spotted with a drink, people may think he's entitled.