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CrossFit workout commemorates fallen Airman

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- The first thing Staff Sgt. Heather Ruhlman, 21st Space Wing paralegal, remembers about Airman 1st Class LeeBernard Chavis is his smile. "He had this huge smile, and he could always make you laugh," she said.

In 2006, Ruhlman and Chavis were both deployed to Iraq with the 824th Security Forces Squadron.

"That deployment was not a good deployment for anybody," Ruhlman said, but Chavis was always positive and always smiling.

On Oct. 14, 2006, Chavis, 21 years old, was killed by sniper fire while he tried to keep civilians away from a suspected bomb in the street near Baghdad.

In 2008, to mark the anniversary of Chavis' death, Senior Master Sgt. Jason France, former 820th Security Forces Group superintendent at Moody Air Force Base, Ga., designed the Chavis workout, a CrossFit style workout the group did together in Chavis' memory.

According to the CrossFit official website, CrossFit is a strength and conditioning program used by many police academies, military special operations units and elite athletes. There is a series of workouts known as Hero Workouts to honor fallen military, policemen and firefighters.

In 2008, CrossFit hadn't reached the mainstream popularity it has today, Ruhlman said. "But at that time our unit was very big into CrossFit. That was our PT schedule for the most part so it was fitting that (France) designed this workout."

The Chavis workout consists of 150 burpees, a one mile run and 150 squat thrusts. "The exercises that are in this specific workout are pretty simple; you don't need any equipment or anything to do them. And it does suck really bad," Ruhlman said.

Over the years, members of the 820th SFG dispersed and the workout went away. This year, to remember the fifth anniversary of Chavis' passing, Ruhlman created a small Facebook event, inviting a couple of her friends to do the Chavis workout. She planned to do the workout at the fitness center with a few friends. There was no way to expect what happened next.

"It blew up," Ruhlman said.

Currently, about 400 people across the globe have accepted the workout invitation. And for every person who has RSVPed "yes" on Facebook, there are handfuls of others who will be doing the workout with their squadrons. Among those who aren't doing the workout are comments from many who still remember Chavis.

"So many people who never even met him are willing to go out and endure some suck to commemorate him. He would be shaking his head right now," Ruhlman said.

All are invited to meet Ruhlman at 7:30 a.m., Oct. 14 on the basketball courts outside the fitness center for a group workout in Chavis' memory.

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