Prince Harry meets Australian public at start of army trip

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) – Britain’s Prince Harry joked and chatted with an enthusiastic crowd Monday at his only scheduled public appearance during a monthlong embedment with Australia’s army, declaring pride in his ginger hair and telling a self-obsessed younger generation that “selfies are bad.”

The British army captain reported for duty in Australia’s capital, Canberra, to begin a four-week attachment to the Australian army that will take him to the east, west and north coasts of the vast nation.

But before he got down to military business, Harry ignored light rain and cool weather to shake hands and chat with hundreds of cheering well-wishers who gathered at cordons to welcome him outside the Australian War Memorial.

Perhaps because of his own history of embarrassing candid photos, he was less generous with teenagers who wanted to photograph themselves with him. He drew laughs when he urged one teen admirer to break the habit of taking “selfies.”

“No, I hate selfies. Seriously, you need to get out of it,” Ten Network television recorded him telling the admirer.

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“I know you’re young, but selfies are bad,” Nine Network television recorded the prince saying.

Harry, fourth in line to the British throne – he’ll move to fifth when brother Prince William’s second child is born – also shook hands and gave a high-five to ginger-haired 12-year-old Ethan Toscan, who brought a banner that read “Redheads RULE!”

Like in Britain, redheads are often teased in Australia, where they are known as “rangas” – short for orangutans.

“He said that I was fabulous in making the sign and it’s awesome to be a redhead,” Ethan said later.

Young and old members of the public gathered at the memorial, with Harry laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier before strolling to the museum’s World War I and Afghanistan galleries.

Harry arrived at Sydney International Airport early Monday dressed in army fatigues, and changed into a dress uniform for the official functions at the memorial.

The 30-year-old veteran of two tours in Afghanistan later reported for duty to Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin, Australia’s Defense Force chief, at the nearby Australian military officers’ college.

Harry saluted his new boss, then delivered a letter from his grandmother Queen Elizabeth II. She wrote that it was appropriate that her second grandson visited as the two countries commemorated sacrifices made a century ago during World War I.

Captain Harry Wales, as he is known in the British army, will be embedded with a number of Australian army units and regiments in the cities of Darwin, Sydney and Perth.

Media reported that Harry made the 1,900-mile flight from Canberra to the northern city of Darwin in an Australian air force jet late Monday. The Defense Department would not confirm the reports, saying it did not comment on individual soldiers’ movements.

In Darwin, which will become a training hub for 1,050 U.S. Marines in the coming weeks, Harry will work with a predominantly Aboriginal infantry regiment, the North-West Mobile Force, known as NORFORCE.

NORFORCE patrols vast tracts of Australia’s sparsely populated tropical wilderness, covering 695,000 square miles. It uses traditional indigenous skills, including tracking, in its surveillance work.

Harry, an Apache helicopter pilot, will be attached to an aviation squadron in the east coast city of Sydney and work with the elite Special Air Service Regiment, including Afghanistan veterans, in the west coast city of Perth. He’ll have to pass Australian certification testing before he’s allowed to pilot any Australian aircraft.

He and his father, Prince Charles, will also attend centenary commemorations on April 25 in Turkey of the ill-fated invasion of Gallipoli peninsula during World War I in which Commonwealth forces under British command, including a joint Australian and New Zealand army, suffered heavy casualties.