2012-08-08 (Chinese Military News from China-defense-mashup) — Special forces must often fight in extremely hostile environments, so the selection of special forces soldiers around the world usually follows a harsh screening process. China’s special forces – with their own unique selection methods – are no exception.
The Thunderers commando unit is a new small and flexible multi-purpose special force established by the airborne forces of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). They prepare to deploy anywhere, seize any pre-emptive opportunity, overcome any difficulty and defeat any enemy.
Their selection covers basic physical condition, such as height and weight, as well as stamina, psychological quality, intelligence and foreign language proficiency. The screening process is as difficult as any special forces, but they do prefer certain criteria among candidates: participation in at least three major military drills or “actual combat” experience and a high degree of flexibility; the ability to use at least three kinds of parachutes and jump from four types of aircraft without guidance, ground command and coordination or prearranged support personnel. “It is like building a national team. We choose the best players from local clubs to form a team, and the team can then compete. We pick people with potential from a large group and give them further professional training,” said instructor Du Zhihui, who has trained abroad in Turkey.
A good personality is also a significant standard. In combat, special forces troops must work in small teams to penetrate enemy lines, so they must be able to bond well with colleagues and be trustworthy. If a member is not good with other people and not a team player, he could put the entire team in danger.
Special forces troops are usually relaxed in their demeanor, but meticulous in their minds. Many seem to behave in an obstinate and unruly way and have an arrogant attitude, but their minds are always highly alert.
Although strict training is essential to operate in a complicated environment, each member’s own outstanding qualities are the foundation of a team’s strength. In August 2001, the “Erna Raid” International Scout Contest was held in Estonia. It tested competitors on their ability to conduct reconnaissance behind enemy lines, in an area of 4 square kilometers containing hundreds of the “enemy.” Troops with advanced equipment guarded key targets. The Chinese team reached the reconnaissance area after an arduous two-day trek, but failed to find a way in after circling it several times. As night came, the team leader decided to enter alone, pretending to be one of the enemy. With his torch on, he took the main road toward the enemy headquarters, pointed his torch on targets and at enemy troops on the way and stopped to observe from time to time as if he were an inspector. The defenders were surprised and got up to salute him. In this way, the Chinese team had a clear picture of the enemy in half an hour. The enemy headquarters was astonished by the reconnaissance results handed in by the Chinese team, all thanks to the bold initiative of the team leader.
How are soldiers like him picked from so many candidates? One company commander said, “I look at two features in choosing special force members: the eyes and the body. The eyes show a soldier’s mind, from which I can judge his intelligence, while the body shows his potential in stamina and skill.”
Often the selection process is very subjective. On one occasion when a special forces officer was instructing an army physical training session, he had squads of soldiers race each other on the obstacle course. The officer noticed one soldier who was unusually active before the contest and “was leaping about like an excited pony.” Although he failed to win the race, he was admitted to the special forces because he was “excited before battle.” The soldier became an excellent special forces member.