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9 May 2013, 14:04 | Updated: 9 May 2013, 14:23
Prince Charles has awarded medals to troops and reservists at Wattisham in Suffolk.
Charles presented operational service medals to 662 Squadron Army Air Corps along with reservists who have just returned from Afghanistan as he visited Wattisham Flying Station.
Prince Harry, known as Captain Wales, is based at the Suffolk airfield, which is home to Apache attack helicopter crews, and returned with 662 Squadron in January. Ordinarily, Harry would have joined the parade but he is currently on a visit to the United States. Among those on parade was his wingman, Major Simon Beattie, who received a trophy as the air corps' best aircraft commander of the year.
Dressed in combat fatigues and the air corps' blue beret, Charles said: "It's a particular pleasure to see so many of 662 Squadron, which my youngest son serves in, on parade even though he is not here - he shoved off, probably because he knew his ancient parents were coming.
"Having heard from him about your remarkable exploits in Afghanistan I have some better understanding of just what you're all up to, the challenges you face and constant demands you are under.''
The Prince, who is Colonel in Chief of the Army Air Corps, added that he could empathise with the families who are left behind when soldiers are deployed abroad.
"If it is any consolation, I understand very well just how many demands are faced by service families when you find yourselves required to go here, there and everywhere at short notice,'' he said. "I think we owe the families here an enormous debt of gratitude.''
As well as presenting service medals, Charles gave special awards to a number of soldiers, including the Colonel in Chief's trophy for the best aircraft commander of the year to Maj Beattie, from Bath, Somerset, who flew with his son throughout their tour.
Reservists from Bury St Edmunds-based 6 Regiment Army Air Corps, who deployed as ground crew with 662 Sqn, were also among the 40 soldiers who received medals.
The Apache is flown on operations by 3 and 4 Regiments Army Air Corps, with the two units providing a continuous presence in Afghanistan since 2006.