China / People

Perseverance keeps commander young

By Huang Zhiling in Shifang, Sichuan (China Daily) Updated: 2015-05-26 07:27

Special forces chief runs 10 km every day to ensure he is a winner

Standing at less than 170 centimeters and with a kindly demeanor, Li Denggui does not look like a typical member of the special forces.

During an exchange with members of special forces of a foreign country last year, a foreign counterpart wanted to make fun of Li and threw a coin into a pool. Much to his great surprise, Li promptly dived in and retrieved the coin. The foreign soldier gave Li a big thumbs-up.

Earlier this year, 38-year-old Li became the chief of staff of a special operation brigade of the No 13 Army Group of the People's Liberation Army.

Li, who comes from a farming family in the suburbs of Chengdu, Sichuan, joined the PLA in 1996.

Some considered him too old to be a member of the special forces, but at age 36 he led 12 members of China's special forces to Kazakhstan in July 2013 to take part in a military competition featuring special forces from 12 countries, including Russia and Turkey.

Li, a battalion level officer, was the oldest and highest-ranking officer to take part. He led his soldiers during the five-day, four-night competition in 21 activities ranging from parachuting and night marches to swimming with weapons. Li's team took first place in 16 of the activities and were runners-up in the other five.

"In the daylong march on the grassland, we had nothing to eat or drink," said Jin Weiqiang, a sniper with the 12-man team. "We hid for one night in marshland, where the mosquitoes felt so big I thought they had bones."

Propose a toast

"Before the competition, the other teams ignored us because we were much shorter. After we won in so many subjects, many came specially to propose a toast to us," said Jin, a 30-year-old company commander.

Three months before the competition, Li had participated in a competition in military skills organized by Chengdu Military Area Command.

Crawling along a 30-meter rope, Li partially lost his grip. He clung onto the rope with both hands and used his strength to get his feet back on the rope and complete the exercise.

"Li Zuocheng, commander-in-chief of the Chengdu Military Area Command, saw what Li did and was surprised an officer of his age could traverse the rope. More than 10 members of the special forces failed to cross it," said Cheng Yuanlai, former brigadier of a special operation brigade of the No 13 Army Group of the PLA.

Li's comrades are not surprised he made it across the rope.

"He is a man of perseverance," said Wang Anlong who served alongside Li for 12 years. "He has run 10 kilometers every day for 19 years, which works out at more than 60,000 km, nearly twice the length of the equator."

He also recalled Li having an hour of free time when he was attending the headquarters of the No 13 Army Group of the PLA in July 2012. Li braved the scorching heat to go and run 10 km.

Wang said that one officer was curious and said to Li: "It is nearly 40 C outside. I would rather stay in a freezer. Why do you want to run?" Li replied: "I feel uncomfortable if I stop running for only one day."

Special forces troops have also been called upon to provide assistance in disaster relief and rescue operations. After the magnitude-8.0 earthquake in Wenchuan on May 12, 2008, the area was cut off from the outside world. Li, then a company commander, was the first outsider, along with his company, to reach the area and report on the situation.

Perseverance keeps commander young

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