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Lance Cpl. Jose Contreras quenches his thirst while completing the Rankel Workout here, Aug. 1. Contreras, a native of San Antonio, is a team leader with Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment. The Rankel workout is dedicated to Sgt. John Rankel, who died while deployed here in 2010.

Photo by Cpl. Colby Brown

The Rankel Workout: Marines test limits to honor fallen Marine

14 Aug 2011 | Cpl. Colby Brown 1st Marine Division

It’s 120 degrees outside. Ten minutes have passed — the halfway point — and sweat is pouring off Lance Cpl. Jose Contreras’ face like a raging river. Oxygen escapes his lungs faster than it can be absorbed, and stars form in daylight because his brain is suffocating. Like an engine revving in the ‘red,’ Contreras’ heart pumps at an uncountable beat.

Gravity stiffens sinew and muscle: his body aches, his mind screams and another round is completed.

Sound like torture? In a way it is – albeit self-imposed. Marines with Charlie Company and throughout 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, endure the Rankel workout to honor Sgt. John Rankel, the namesake of this combat outpost in Garmsir. Rankel made the ultimate sacrifice while deployed here in 2010.

“I never met Sgt. Rankel, but he is a brother, a fellow Marine,” said Capt. Charles Siedlecki, the Charlie Company commander and a native of Berlin, N.J. “He made the ultimate sacrifice so we could have the freedoms we do in America. This is just a more intimate way we honor his sacrifice.”

The workout consists of multiple rounds of the following circuit:

• Six dead-lifts of 225 pounds

• Seven burpee pull-ups

• 10 70-pound kettle bell swings

• 200-meter sprint

When the full circuit is completed, it counts as one round. Whoever completes the most in 20 minutes wins.

The work corresponds numerically to June, 7 2010, the day Rankel died. The dead-lifts are for the month, the pull-ups are for the day and the 10 kettle bell swings and 200-meter sprint represent the year.

“It’s exhausting,” said Lance Cpl. Joshua Townsend, a patrol leader with Charlie Company and native of Brook Haven, Miss. “I played football and baseball in high school, and it is one of the most exhausting workouts I have ever done.”

Almost a month ago, 1st Lt. Gregory Veteto, the executive officer for Charlie Company, found the workout posted on the Crossfit website as a ‘hero workout’ dedicated to service members, policemen, and firefighters who have given their life in service to their country. As soon as he saw, it he decided to try.

Veteto then challenged the company staff to beat his record, and after experiencing the grueling exercise regime, the staff challenged every Marine in Charlie Company to endure the pain in memory of Rankel.

“When I had four minutes left, I almost quit,” said Siedlecki. “The [executive officer] kept encouraging me, but then he said, ‘Do it for Rankel’ … I didn’t stop until the time was out after that.”

Now, the ‘Rankel Workout’ has spread throughout the battalion. Marines from every company have endured the pain, both as physical training and in honor of Rankel’s sacrifice. The question is, ‘How much pain will you go through for Rankel?’

Editors Note: First Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, is currently assigned to Regimental Combat Team 1, 2nd Marine Division (Forward), which heads Task Force Leatherneck. The task force serves as the ground combat element of Regional Command (Southwest) and works in partnership with the Afghanistan National Security Forces and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to conduct counterinsurgency operations. The unit is dedicated to securing the Afghan people, defeating insurgent forces, and enabling the ANSF assumption of security responsibilities within its area of operations in order to support the expansion of stability, development and legitimate governance.

1st Marine Division