Members of Peterson Air Force Base participate in the Airman 1st Class
LeeBernard E. Chavis memorial workout Oct. 16. The workout is an annual
event continued by Chavis' friends world-wide to commemorate his death on
Oct. 14, 2006, in the streets near Baghdad, Iraq. Workout participants used
chalk to keep track of their repetitions during the difficult workout. (U.S.
Air Force photo by SSgt Christopher Boitz)
Members of Peterson Air Force Base do "burpees" (an up-down exercise
with a push-up) while participating in the Airman 1st Class LeeBernard E.
Chavis memorial workout Oct. 16. The workout is an annual event continued
by Chavis' friends world-wide to commemorate his death on Oct. 14, 2006, in
the streets near Baghdad, Iraq. (U.S. Air Force photo by SSgt Christopher
by Capt. Tamara Fischer-Carter
Air Force Space Command Public Affairs
10/17/2012 - PETERSON AFB, Colo. -- While many were hitting snooze for the second time, a driven few answered a calling from deep within.
Approximately 40 Air Force members gathered together outside the fitness center here Oct. 16 to commemorate the 6th anniversary of the death of Airman 1st Class LeeBernard E. Chavis in a unique way.
On Oct. 14, 2006, Chavis, a 21-year-old member of the 824th Security Forces Squadron at Moody AFB, Ga., was killed by sniper fire while he tried to keep civilians away from a suspected bomb in the streets near Baghdad.
Chief Master Sgt. Jason France, former 820th Security Forces Group operations superintendent at Moody AFB, now at Hill AFB, Utah, designed the annual Chavis Workout, a CrossFit-style workout that the group did together in Chavis' memory. The Chavis Workout consists of 150 burpees (or an up-down with a push-up), a one mile run and 150 squat thrusts.
This year, former 824th Security Forces member at Moody AFB, Ga., Staff Sgt. Heather Ruhlman, now a 21st Space Wing paralegal, sent out an invite to the workout via Facebook. She was there in Baghdad when Chavis was killed.
"I never thought in 2008 when we first did this workout together that years later we would be doing it at our new homes spread across the world. There are members of the unit who are not even in the military anymore who go and do the workout," Ruhlman said. "It's nice to know so many still take the time out to remember our fallen Ghostwalker."
Ruhlman said that last year 400 people across the globe accepted the workout invitation she sent. This year appears to have garnered a similar response. Among the people attending the workout here were members of security forces, comptroller, judge advocate and public affairs units; and the nearby USAF Academy.
Staff Sgt. Danny Keurtz, 21st Security Forces member, is a regular at the gym and has been doing two-(or more)-a-days in preparation for the event.
"The turn out today was fantastic. Much more than I think anyone expected," said Kuertz. "With everyone there you could tell people were pushing as hard as they could. It was nice to see people pour so much sweat and camaraderie into remembering Airman 1st Class Chavis. I couldn't have been happier to share this experience with everyone there."
1st Lt. Connie Dillon, public affairs officer with Air Force Space Command, participated. "This event was seriously challenging and deep in meaning. It was something that kicked my butt and made me want to quit every second, but I keep going because of what it stands for," said Dillon.
As each person progressed through the workout, they tick-marked their count with chalk on the pavement. They pressed through the workout in mostly respectful silence, while others from around the world wrote "complete," with their location and a message of love to Chavis on a Facebook page created for the event.
"It warms my heart when I see this enormous outpouring of support for the workout," said Ruhlman. "I can't believe the workout has become what it is today. Six years later, it still hurts just like it did on 14 Oct. 2006, but what's uplifting is knowing Chavis is still remembered just as I always hoped and knew he would be."
At the end of the workout everyone understood what the Air Force family means by "proud heritage and legacy of valor." There was no team huddle or cheer, only the symbolic chalk outlines at each person's feet as they mustered what strength they had left to gather drink bottles and cold weather gear.
With solemn expressions like they had just visited Airman Chavis' grave in person, they turned away to carry on the Air Force mission.