Deputy Shelby Hammond holds a mouthpiece for dive gear that fits over her mouth.
Deputy Shelby Hammond, 28, holds a new piece of dive gear equipment that will fit over her mouth. Credit: Dillon Carr

ASHLAND — Shelby Hammond doesn’t have to worry about swallowing murky lake water anymore. 

The 28-year-old Ashland County Sheriff deputy joined the office’s dive and rescue team in May 2022, despite the team’s lack of female-fitted equipment. During training, she remembers coming to service and her suit filling with water up to her chest. 

“They’re supposed to be dry suits. Mine turned into more of a wet suit,” Hammond said. 

New scuba fins sit on the floor on display as new gear afforded after an Ashland County Community Foundation grant of $10,000.

When she finishes her training to become certified by the state later this year, she’ll have equipment that actually fits thanks to a $10,000 grant from the Ashland County Community Foundation (ACCF). 

Officials from the sheriff’s office and the foundation met Thursday to display the new equipment and celebrate Hammond’s proper use of it.

Becky Sturgill, Ashland County’s first-ever female deputy, spearheaded the effort. 

“I’m familiar with women in law enforcement and what it’s like to not have the right equipment,” she said. 

Sturgill said she learned about Hammond’s need for a properly-fitted mouthpiece and dry suit when the dive team performed a training session at her Ashland County pond. She spoke to Detective Mark Jump, the dive team’s commander, and learned more about the issue. 

“When we brought deputy Hammond on, we really quickly found out that we were going to need some specialized equipment because most of this stuff is set up for bigger guys,” Jump said. 

The ACCF accepted the proposal. 

“This equipment was needed. Female divers were possibly using ill-fitting equipment. And we just said, ‘Well that can’t stand. We’ve gotta do something about that,’” said Jim Cutright, the foundation’s president.

Jump said he used the money to buy smaller-fitting mouthpieces. The larger one allowed some water to get into Hammond’s mouth. He also bought updated equipment with the money.

Hammond is not the first female to serve on the dive team; one other served before her, Jump said. 

Still, the equipment is outdated and too large.

More on the money

The money, Cutright explained, came from the organization’s strategic grant pool.

“That’s the result of gifts that have been made to us where the donors haven’t put any restrictions on how those dollars can be used,” he said.

Sheriff Wayne Risner said he appreciates the ACCF’s grant. With it, he was able to secure additional ACSO dollars to buy additional equipment to update the gear.

With Hammond, the sheriff’s dive and rescue team has five certified divers. Another three serve on the team with administrative roles.

It is one of only a few dive teams in the area serving Richland and Crawford counties, among others, on calls for evidence recovery and search-and-rescue missions.

Lead reporter for Ashland Source who happens to own more bikes than pairs of jeans. His coverage focuses on city and county government, and everything in between. He lives in Mansfield with his wife and...