HURLBURT FIELD, FL – Divers brought 20-foot logs, rusty chain link fencing and buckets full of cement to the surface during a Hurlburt Marina cleanup Saturday.
Students from the Air Force Special Operations Command Special Tactics Training Squadron and members of the Hurlburt Dive Club cleared the Marina waters of almost two tons of garbage and hazardous debris capable of slicing through a boat bottom or body part.
Using gear donated by the Hurlburt Dive Club, the sixteen participants ran their cleanup like a military operation, combining volunteer work with training by using techniques employed in traditional search and recovery dives to sweep the waterways.
This event was a way for AFSOC’s special tactics community to show appreciation to the public for its support, said Mike Gray, event organizer and water operations instructor at STTS.
“Our goal is to continue to strengthen the bond between special tactics and the community,” Gray said.
He and his team hope to make the cleanup a recurring event, they said.
Staff Sgt. Bridger Morris was among the student divers happy to use skills gained in training to give back.
“The community is always helping and supporting us with everything, so the best we can do is to help out by spending a few hours cleaning up,” Morris said.
The Marina was sectioned into grids that a team of ten divers spanned in rotations while six others provided support and combed the beaches for trash, covering about 1,500 meters.
With 60 degree waters and zero visibility, divers were forced to feel in front of them for debris. Because of the chilly water temperatures, divers had to surface for warmth after an hour and 17 minutes.
“It’s not bad at the beginning, but once you stay down there for a little bit, the cold gets to you,” said Airman First Class Clinton Kennedy.
Still, Kennedy only warmed himself for a brief moment before jumping back in.
Airmen were not deterred from spending about 16 hours in the water even with conditions Gray said commercial divers would be paid $185 dollars per hours to work in.
The team disposed of 3,700 pounds of debris, including more than 200 yards of rope and fishing line. They also repaired a disconnected channel marker.