No holds barred training for elite force

Updated: 2013-11-22 23:54

By Hou Liqiang (China Daily)

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Kicks to the face or shooting a rifle after 5-km run all part of day's work

No holds barred training for elite force

Cui Erwei, the winner of a special forces marksman competition, wears camouflage while taking part in a training exercise in June. Photos provided to China Daily

Soldiers crawl forward in the mud as icy water is poured onto their bodies from a fire truck. They then jump into a pool and are prevented from getting out by a man in a black mask who kicks their faces or shoulders. Explosions constantly ring out nearby.

Welcome to a "light" training exercise with the People's Liberation Army's special forces.

"We do a lot harsher things to train our soldiers, in scorching hot and freezing cold conditions," Assistant Commander Wu Haiyan said.

"We have them walk 50 kilometers over mountains and through jungles, each carrying 35 kilograms of equipment, once a month. It takes all day and there are no rest breaks."

Wu regaled journalists with tales of his unit's tough regimen during a rare glimpse into the world of China's elite fighting force at a base in Jining, Shandong province.

Soldiers must be trained to endure hikes totaling 4,000 km over a period of seven months with full combat packs. Some soldiers had such bad rope burns on their hands that they had to cut their calluses with razor blades — all just part of preparations for a national contest.

Special training sessions can be called at any time, said Tang Changchun, head of the unit's scout team.

Once, soldiers were asked to lie on their stomachs in the middle of the night and asked one after another to stand up and put their hands into a box full of chickens, snakes or mudfish, he said, recalling, "You can hear the screams behind you, but we don't know why until we are put in the same situation."

Besides general training, soldiers can also specialize. Cui Erwei, for example, took part in the nine-month training to become a sniper after joining the Jining regiment in 2009.

For the first five months, he said, he spent 12 hours a day, from 6:30 am to 6:30 pm, on a shooting range, lying on his stomach and looking into the sight of his rifle.

"I could stand up once in the morning and once in the afternoon, but not to rest; I had to do physical exercise, running up and down a hill or running over obstacles, and then lie down again soon after I finished," Cui said.

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