Taipei, Jan. 3 (CNA) The military's late chief of general staff, Shen Yi-ming (沈一鳴), who was killed in a Black Hawk helicopter crash in Taiwan on Thursday, is being remembered by family members and former colleagues for his record of military service and genial personality.
The 62-year-old, who took office last July to succeed Lee Hsi-ming (李喜明), received recognition for his military acumen after graduating from Taiwan's Air Force Academy in 1979 and the U.S. Air War College in 2002.
Shen was among the first batch of pilots sent to France to test fly the Mirage 2000 fighters, and was appointed as chief aide-de-camp to Liberian President Charles Taylor during his state visit to Taiwan in 2001, according to the Ministry of National Defense (MND).
It was not until old documents were recently declassified that Shen was learned to have taken part in a secret military mission between Taiwan and its then-diplomatic ally Saudi Arabia from 1979 to 1990 to help the Yemen Arab Republic, which had no ties with Taiwan.
In the "Great Desert Program," the Republic of China (Taiwan) Air Force deployed pilots and ground crew several times to assist the Yemen Arab Republic to set up its fighter fleet, and Shen, who spent a year there, was the sole officer from that program still on active duty.
In addition to professionalism, Shen was known for his leadership as well as an easygoing personality, his colleagues said.
Shen was rational, stressed scientific evidence and judged issues only on their merits, which made him a much respected leader, they said.
President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), who extended her condolences to Shen's wife after the crash, said his wife said she was very proud of him and will keep strong.
Former President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), who appointed Shen as Air Force commander during his tenure, also said he was in extreme shock and grief after learning of Shen's death.
Shen was a professional and a modest person of firm will, said Ma, who expressed the hope that the military will look into the Black Hawks' safety performance.
Former MND spokesman and retired Major General Luo Shou-he (羅紹和) remembered Shen on his Facebook page, saying that Shen was a kind person.
"Your care for your subordinates and brothers was from the bottom of your heart, from which we could feel warmth and strength," Luo said.
Shen was among the eight people killed in the UH-60M Black Hawk helicopter crash in the mountains of Wulai in New Taipei.
Shen, along with 12 other military personnel, was traveling on the helicopter to a military base in Dong'ao, Yilan County for a pre-Lunar New Year inspection, the MND said.
The ministry has not released any information on the possible cause of the crash.