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Feature: female Tibetan soldiers in China's naval convoy team

2015-06-08
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It's early summer in the Gulf of Aden, and China's 20th Convoy Team is escorting four Chinese and foreign merchant ships. In the control room of the ship, a slender female grasps the steering wheel, staring straight ahead, following orders and controlling steady.

In a passageway of the ship's hold, a slightly dark-skinned female soldier carries a medical chest on her back, holding a blood pressure meter in her hand, making her rounds at each station.

The female soldier who operates the ship’s controls is called Yangkyi Tsering, and the medical worker is called Kunsang Drolma. They come from Nagqu and Lhoka respectively of Tibet Autonomous Region, and they are part of the first group of female Tibetan soldiers in the Chinese Navy.

They are also the first female Tibetan soldiers to go to the Gulf of Aden and the waters near Somalia to escort ships, and they have been called the "Kelsang flowers of the Gulf of Aden".

The Chinese Navy first recruited female Tibetan soldier in July 2013. At the time, Yangkyi Tsering and Kunsang Drolma were students studying at Tibet University, and they signed up for the navy without hesitation.

Ever since Yangkyi Tsering was very young, her father constantly told her about Tibet’s liberation of the serfs, repeatedly telling her that the CPC is good, and the PLA is good!

Kunsang Drolma has dreamed of joining the military since seeing the display of bravery by the PLA in the relief efforts after the Wenchuan earthquake. "Becoming a soldier has been my dream," Gusang Drolma said. "The navy gets to see the blue oceans; I didn't want to miss out."

After completing training, Yangkyi Tsering chose to specialize in operating a ship's controls. She said, "The control room is the highest room in the whole ship. When I'm at the controls, I can see the ocean." Gusang Drolma chose to specialize in medicine. She wants to become a "white-cloaked angel" of the warship.

While studying their chosen fields, Yangkyi Tsering earnestly followed every order. Usually her arms would ache, and her legs would get numb. Kunsang Drolma would prick her own arm till it swelled in order to practice giving injections.

On April 3, Qiandao Lake Warship set out to perform its escort work. On the water, the strong winds caused high waves, intensely rocking the warship and tossing it around.

Because she was not used to such high waves, Yangkyi Tsering would vomit at least once a day, but she endured, never leaving the control panel, and successfully fulfilling her duties. Kunsang Drolma also overcame her own difficulties, persisting in her medical rounds.

"Our parents have never left Tibet, but we are able to go abroad. It makes me feel very honored and proud." They are proud and confident when speaking of operating the ship.

When the escort team organized a party, Yangkyi Tsering and Kunsang Drolma together performed a Tibetan song and dance called "A mother"s daughter": "The sun and moon is a mother's daughter, their mother is called light… Tibetans and Han are all a mother's daughter, our mother is called China."

"We wish for the motherland to thrive and prosper always, and for the world to always be in peace!" After the performance, they used both Tibetan and Chinese to talk about their aspirations.

Yangkyi Tsering and Kunsang Drolma compare books to study naval information.

Kunsang Drolma measures Yangji Tsering's blood pressure while in the control room.

Yangkyi Tsering and Kunsang Drolma perform during the party.