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MILITARY MATTERS: Triathlete and War Vet Saving Soldiers’ Lives with Technology Testing

Published: Jun. 17, 2021 at 12:37 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 17, 2021 at 1:44 PM EDT
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COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - After decades in the Army, that included leading troops during the War in Iraq, a veteran in Columbus is now testing new technology that is helping to save hundreds of soldiers’ lives.

“Stepping out every day, going out in a vehicle, not knowing if you’re gonna be the guy hit with an IED or small arms ambush,” LTC (Ret) Alfonso “Al” Ahuja said.

Retired Army Lt. Col. Alfonso Ahuja (proncounced A-hoo-yuh) remembers the extreme dangers of being deployed to the War In Iraq, as a battalion commander there from 2003 to 2005. Part of his job was leading security in Northern Iraq communities, where he attended weddings and saw people caring for each other, but he also described a much different dynamic.

“The same people I saw trying to live a normal life...there’s another side of them where they’re trying to kill you and they’re trying to make sure you don’t go home to your family,” Ahuja said.

After retiring from the Army more than 15 years ago, Al - as people know him - has been a manager for a multi-million dollar program through the Science Applications International Corporation. He works with soldiers and military programs, in high tech ways.

He told us, “Basically what we do is look at all the new and emerging capabilities that are coming to the Army that are in some stage of development. We put them in the hands of soldiers, tell them how to use it, assess the capabilities.”

After a number of Humvees in the Iraqi war zone were blown up by IEDs, killing American soldiers, the Army and Marine Corps built a better vehicle to protect them.

“I was the lead on the team from Fort Benning, spent a lot of time in Yuma AZ testing these vehicles. It was a V-shaped hull that would deflect some of the blast,” Ahuja said. “And those vehicles have saved thousands of lives.”

Ahuja says war changed the way he saw the world - an about face from his infantry bravado going to the Middle East.

“This glorified perspective on war, and I came out of it with a completely different perspective after watching how people suffer,” Ahuja said.

Off the battlefield, Al deals with his stress in part through cycling, but not typical rides. He’s cycled 700 miles in 8 days through the Alps, now coaches triathletes, and just recently completed a solo bike ride across Georgia, 277 miles, some of that in the middle of the night.

“I literally was hallucinating stuff on the road that wasn’t there. I kept saying to myself, you just need to pull over and take a break...but that Army part of me, get through this, get through this,” he said.

Ahuja also joined me on the latest episode of Run The Race. Go to https://www.wtvm.com/page/podcast/ to hear him talk more about cycling, leading soldiers, and advice for athletes.

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