DESTIN — At least two tons of debris was pulled from Destin Harbor on Wednesday, thanks to a group of Special Tactics airmen.
With the help of the city and local law enforcement, 20 Air Force Combat Diver School graduates dove around the docks in the harbor to pick up trash and debris.
Using full-face diving gear that allowed them to communicate underwater, the airmen started at the docks near HarborWalk Village at 9 a.m.
“They hit the primo docks where the most traffic was coming in and out of,” said Mike Gray, the unit's diving officer at Hurlburt Field who helped oversee the operation.
While some common items such as sunglasses, water bottles, soda cans and cellphones were found, the men did find some unusual things.
“We found a baby stroller, which is one of the most bizarre things,” Gray said. “And we also found a microwave.”
Gray believed the baby stroller hadn’t been in the water long. Hardly any damage and no barnacles could be seen on it. The microwave, however, looked like an item pulled from a shipwreck. Other things found included a stereo, tires and a bottle of ranch dressing.
Gray said his group does a cleanup every few years, and they never know what they’ll find.
By the time the team finished at Emerald Coasts Scuba’s boat slip about 1 p.m., they had done 44 dives and spent more than 2,200 minutes underwater.
“This is kind of like the evidence diving that we do when we have a plane crash, so they have to be really meticulous,” Gray said. “It’s a great training exercise, and it gets them out of the office for a little bit.”
The 256 cubic feet of junk required six pickup truck trips to get it all to Emerald Coasts Scuba, which will catalog and properly dispose of it.
“We’ll weigh and record how much plastic, metal and rubber there is, and then report it to the Professional Association of Diving Instructors,” said Anna Schmitz, owner of Emerald Coasts Scuba. “They conduct this big initiative about keeping the waterways clean and protecting the environment.”
The airmen, who will complete their combat controller advance dive training in October, wanted to give back to the community in a meaningful way.
“This is their way of saying thanks for taking care of us as the military,” Gray said.