By Li Xiaobo, Shan Senmiao, Cheng Cheng and Chen Bing
Master Sergeant First Class Gao Yuhua was born in 1972 in Zhumadian, Henan province. Enlisted in March 1990, he is now a technician assigned to a brigade of the Chinese PLA Strategic Support Force.
Gao is swarthy and lean. His hands, covered by callus and scars, bear full witness to his glorious military career of more than 30 years.
For his exceptional performance as a new recruit, Gao was selected to study at a technical school, where he soon stood out for his acumen and diligence and was offered a chance to stay and work as a teaching assistant. Passionate about the vibrant military camp, Gao turned it down and went back to his troops as an engineer.
Not a single day passed without him working with spanners and screwdrivers on machinery and equipment, and it was not long before he became an expert in maintaining and operating the apparatus. He was able to drive or operate and independently maintain all the vehicles and electric equipment in the troops.
In 2012, the military assigned a new task for Gao. He was designated to lead a team of master sergeants to compile the operation manual for new types of equipment. He and his team developed more than 20 special-purpose devices and came up with over ten troubleshooting methods. His elaborate study notes, totaling about 400,000 words, were used as an encyclopedia of solving assorted problems that might happen to the machinery and equipment.
In recent years, Gao has become so renowned for his expertise that several local companies have tried to poach him with a high paycheck, but he said no to all of them. He didn't want to leave his fellow soldiers who respected and trusted him and didn't want to take off the military uniform just yet. In 2018, when he could apply to retire, a friend called him and suggested running a repair factory together that could earn him nearly one million a year, but Gao said no again. He decided to extend his service term and continue contributing to the military –becoming the first master sergeant in his unit to do so ever.
The past 30-plus years have seen Gao's hair turn gray and also seen him become a master hand at the operation and maintenance of more than 50 kinds of equipment, participate in the compilation of over ten teaching materials, and cultivate over 500 backbone technicians well versed in different domains. He has been honored with Second-class Merit Citation twice and Third-Class Merit Citation seven times. Gao has already extended his service term twice and is about to apply for a third time this year.
"The moment I put on the uniform, I was ready to devote my life to national defense. The longer I stay here, the more responsibility I have on my shoulders. I will continue to work hard as always, and impart all that I know to more fellow soldiers," he said.