Prince Harry will be deployed to Iraq, Britain’s Ministry of Defense has confirmed.
A source told PEOPLE on Tuesday that Harry, 22, was likely to be sent to the Middle Eastern nation.
The announcement that his regiment, the Blues and Royals, will serve in Iraq comes just a day after Prime Minister Tony Blair told parliament that Britain would start reducing its military presence in the country.
Harry, 22, is third in line to the throne and the first senior royal to serve in a combat zone since his uncle Prince Andrew flew helicopters in the Falklands War in 1982.
Britain’s Defense Secretary is expected to give more details on the deployment in a statement to parliament later today.
Prince Harry – who is known to colleagues as Troop Commander Wales – joined the army in 2005. He graduated from Sandhurst Military Academy in April and qualified as an armored reconnaissance officer in October.
He has made no secret of his desire to go to war. In an interview to mark his 21st birthday in 2005, he said, “There’s no way I’m going to put myself through Sandhurst and then sit on my arse back home while my boys are out fighting for their country.”
Security issues for the prince and his colleagues have been a major concern for military and royal officials. London’s Evening Standard newspaper reports that Harry, who is normally protected by Metropolitan Police bodyguards, will be shadowed by the Army’s elite Special Air Service (SAS) in Iraq.
An SAS source tells PEOPLE: “He would probably be protected by an eight-member SAS team working in teams of four in 12-hour shifts. They won’t let him out of their sight. They will be eating, sleeping and fighting alongside him. They will become his best new pals.”