The Valdez Star - Serving Prince William Sound and Copper River Basin

By Lee Revis
Editor, Valdez Star 

Bomb squad's robot gets a moniker and five-year old wins name-game

William Wenner is the winner of the police sponsored contest for the machine


August 30, 2017

Tactical Urban Grunt. TUG for short.

That is the new name of the robot used by the Valdez Police Dept.'s bomb squad.

TUG got his new moniker thanks to a contest for kids sponsored by Valdez police.

"We liked the name," said Bart Hinkle, Valdez police chief, who sponsored the contest in hopes of engaging youngsters from the community.

After choosing the name Tug - which was suggested by William Wenner - age 5 - police came up the acronym to reflect the robot's function within the department.

TUG - an Andros Wolverine model - was funded back in 2009 with a grant from the US Department of Homeland Security - to the tune of $215,000.

So why does the Valdez Police Department need a robot?

The answer is simple. Valdez is lucky enough to have one of only three certified bomb squads in Alaska. In 2008, it became mandatory for bomb squads to have a robot in order to remain certified by the FBI - which in turn provides training and sometimes support equipment.

Valdez Star photo

Young William Wenner helped operate TUG, the bomb defusing robot, during the Gold Rush Parade in early August.

Security for the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System creates the biggest need for a certified bomb squad in a small town with a low crime rate.

Hinkle said TUG is also used in community outreach programs, especially those targeting youth, and TUG rarely misses parades in Valdez - the place most residents would have seen the robot.

Hinkle said the list of names entered in the contest was impressive and ranged from the obvious - such as Robocop, Fender and Fembot - the ordinary, Jack, Judy and Harold were suggested - as were fun names such as McSniff and Roboty McRobotface.

Hinkle said TUG is also a great recruitment tool for the police department.

While the robot - thankfully - sees little real-time action as a bomb detecting machine, TUG is always on hand in case a need does arise.


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