Fired up for success
Updated: 2012-07-30 09:18
By Wang Huazhong (China Daily)
A soldier overcomes his limited early education to come to terms with a new generation of tanks. Wang Huazhong reports in Beijing.
Knowing that his battalion was going to be equipped with the latest model of tank, Jia Yuanyou was full of expectation - and fear.
He mentions an entry in his diary for 1999, which describes getting in a tank for the first time: "Can I master the complicated radio system?"
Over the years he has moved on from radios to computer navigational systems, and from the manual roller-wheel targeting system to digitally-assisted fire control.
Jia, who only completed his junior middle school studies before joining the army, says he was worried about keeping up.
He recalls his role model - the former chief artilleryman of his regiment - was forced to leave because he couldn't adapt to the new generation of tanks.
"We all crave the most advanced tanks. Either we follow the pace of progress or face exclusion," he says.
"I would find it hard to accept if my educational background holds me back."
Jia was born in a Shandong province village, in 1980. His mother died when he was 13.
Before joining a Beijing armored regiment in 1999, he was a shepherd, coal miner and brick factory worker.
Feeling that he was disadvantaged compared with his peers, Jia saved for two years and borrowed another 1,000 yuan ($156) to buy the first computer in his regiment.
The investment was not in vain. Soon after, his division - which led the transformation of the army from horse and mule-driven transport to motors - moved on to digital equipment.
Jia practices every day in his tank and reads about new battlefield equipment and technology at night.
The latest tank is equipped with new information systems, so he tried to get a sneak view and bugged technicians at the factory for information.
Jia was conferred "extra grade" certificates in wireless communication, artillery control and for tank driving, finished his junior college studies and earned a bachelor's degree in military science.
"Sometimes, Jia is too stubborn. He won't change his mind once he decides to do something," Huang Xuhong, the political commissar of Jia's division, says.
Jia's companions say he is able to endure hardships and recall that the 1.77-meter-tall Jia once stayed in a cramped tank for more than two weeks in 2010 before a drill competition.
He was intent on adjusting the cannon for humidity, temperature and other configurations, in July, when it was above 40 C, while insects swarmed around him.
Just one day before the competition commenced, Jia fired four shells that went through a single hole in the target.
Jia's efforts helped him win first place in the Beijing area competition.
In his 14 years of service, he has been commended as an "excellent soldier" on 13 consecutive occasions.
With the guidance of an engineer, he spent 20 days composing a 60,000-character operation manual for the latest tank model.
He has come up with 15 remedies for cartridge jams; and proposed 50 ideas to improve the tanks' gears.
Jia says it is because he is so interested in tanks that he can master the equipment.
"A tank is like another limb to me. When the shells are loaded into the cannon chamber, I feel like my chest is being loaded."
Jia was named acting platoon commander four times, but is still squad leader.
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