London — Prince William is heading to the azure waters of the Caribbean as part of a two-month deployment in the Royal Navy despite his request to be as close as possible to conflict.
The assignment beginning Monday will see the second in line to the throne spending much of his time trolling the West Indies aboard the HMS Iron Duke, a frigate on hurricane relief duty and counter-narcotics patrol.
Rear Admiral Robert Cooling, assistant chief of Naval Staff, said William "commendably wanted to be as close to the front line as possible." But 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 draw 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.
Deployment of William's brother, Prince Harry, to the front lines in Afghanistan had to be cut short this spring after a news embargo was broken and it was revealed he was serving there.
Senior officers stressed in a pre-deployment briefing that William will not receive special treatment during his Navy assignment, which will include shoreside training followed by a five-weeks at sea.
"The rules that will apply to Prince William will be exactly the same as the rules applied to any junior officer," Cooling said.
However, he said, the prince probably would not take part in boarding parties if the men are likely to come under fire while attempting to intercept drug shipments.