When the 2008 Wenchuan quake happened, Cheng Qiang was only 12. He had a lucky escape as he had skipped school and gone swimming in a pond in Shifang, 40 kilometers away from the epicenter Wenchuan. But the quake destroyed his home and took away the lives of his little niece and his classmates.
Then on the second day of the quake came the moment he will never forget - a large number of airborne troops appeared in his hometown, carrying rescue supplies.
“It was really cool to see them descending from the sky. Their bravery sowed a seed in my heart of becoming an airborne trooper,”Cheng said. It was the first time he had a dream.
Cheng also noticed the words “the troop unit Huang Jiguang was once at” written on the flag they were carrying (Huang Jiguang is a Chinese war hero who sacrificed himself in the battle of Shangganling during the War to Resist US Aggression and Aid Korea in 1952).
When Cheng saw airborne troops leave after their rescue work in the earthquake, he held a sign saying “I want to become an airborne trooper when I grow up”.
In 2013, Cheng signed up for military service in airborne division. He and other fellow soldiers were told anyone who got excellent performances in the training would be able to become a member of Huang Jiguang heroic squad. So he trained himself hard as he believed it as a way to show respect to the martyrs and a return to the rescuers who helped him in the quake.
When chosen to be the first one to perform parachute jump shortly after he was recruited in the army, Cheng experienced his first yet extraordinary parachute training.
“It was like in a dream. I just couldn't stop my whole body shivering" Cheng said. "At that very moment, I told myself only if I conquer the fear can I get the chance to become a soldier of Huang Jiguang heroic squad,” he said.
Oct 19, 2017, marked the 65th anniversary of the death of Huang Jiguang. On that day, Cheng was officially named as the 38th squad leader of Huang Jiguang heroic squad.