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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Robot bomb disposal on the Rez

Operating a remote control near the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe’s Ziibiwing Center Thursday, Josh Graff guided a robot toward an abandoned trailer to retrieve a suspicious package. Graff, who works on the bomb squad based at the state police Crime Lab in Grayling, came to Mt. Pleasant Thursday to show Tribal employees and first responders how the bomb robot is used following an explosives awareness program he oversaw a month ago.

Graff, a detective sergeant with the Michigan State Police Bomb Squad, moved the F6A Remotech robot to a small package in the trailer as a group of Ziibiwing employees, Tribal police, Tribal firefighters and others looked on.

A slight glitch -- when leaving the trailer, the robot tipped off the stairs -- didn’t stop Graff, from showing the group the dangers involved in retrieving suspicious packages.
“It’s like anything else,” Graff, a former trooper at the Mt. Pleasant post, said. “It’s not fail proof.”
Graff learned from the robot slipping off the stairs.
“In this case, it was user error,” he said. “It’s good to see that because that can happen on a potential call.
“You have to improvise and move forward.”

“They have us come every year,” he said. “It’s a precaution.” Thursday’s presentation included Graff using the robot to retrieve the suspicious bag, taking it to a portable X-ray machine and showing the group that the package contained a pipe bomb.

Because the Ziibiwing Center is in close proximity to Tribal operations first responders and court, along with the Soaring Eagle Casino and Resort, the training and Thursday’s presentation were offered because of the potential threat and number of people who could be affected in a bomb incident, Graff said.

Graff used the robot to shoot a high velocity stream of water at the bag to destroy it, then shoot the end cap off the pipe bomb once it was exposed, eliminating the risk of detonation.Such training is important, Graff said, because any business or person can be at risk.Businesses such as the casino, where large groups of people gather, are at more risk, Graf said.

Reporting by Clare Managing Editor Susan Field

Assistance by Sun Staff Writer Patricia Ecker

Photos by Joseph Sowmick, Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe


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