Chaplain tells all about life serving Mildenhall airmen

US Air Force Chaplain (Maj.) Randy Croft, left, 100th Air Refueling Wing deputy chaplain from Walla

US Air Force Chaplain (Maj.) Randy Croft, left, 100th Air Refueling Wing deputy chaplain from Walla Walla, Wash., takes part in a �living art� demonstration during an RAF Mildenhall Chapel Family Care retreat, at a holiday village in Elveden. - Credit: Archant

A chaplain from RAF Mildenhall has spoken about his fulfilling job at the base, dealing with every aspect of life and death for the US airmen and their families.

Major Randy Croft, 100th Air Refuelling Wing deputy chaplain, and a keen ventriloquist, revealed his passion for helping others, especially at the hardest of times.

Major Croft, from Walla Walla, Washington, said: “My role is to help provide spiritual care, encouragement and support for our Airmen and their families.

“We are chaplains for all, pastors to some. I’m a Protestant Christian, from a nondenominational flavour, but I can also help provide support and services to airmen no matter what their dog tag says.

“This includes providing services so they can exercise their constitutional right of free exercise of religion. But it also includes building strong and healthy Airmen and families through family retreats, marriage events, singles’ events and counselling.

“In areas where we, as chaplains, can’t provide support, we will refer to other resources to assist someone in need.”

Major Croft explained that getting to know airmen on the base is a big part of his job, regardless of their interest in religion.

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“I love helping them if they are struggling with issues such as parenting, or marriage issues. If they have spiritual interests, I enjoy helping them get stronger in those areas too,” he said.

“The most challenging thing I have dealt with since I have been in the military is dealing with death notifications and the ensuing grief.

“We will accompany a commander and a medical technician to notify a relative that their loved one has just died. That’s hard to see and hard to experience. But we walk with them through the valley of the shadow of death. We try to comfort those who are hurting.”

Despite Major Croft’s often sombre role, a passion for making people laugh has led to three decades as a practicing ventriloquist.

He explained that initially it was for entertainment but he had no idea the joy it could bring to others later in his life.

He said: “I’ve tinkered with ventriloquism since I was in third grade, so for over 30 years.

“I like making kids laugh. I’m a dad of three kids and I enjoy seeing them smile. Laughter can be a universal bridge builder.

“Years ago, my wife and I went to Russia on a mission trip and were able to reach children from an orphanage and a hospital.

“I didn’t speak the language so I brought Dexter (the puppet) out to sing a song. He raised his eyebrows, blinked and laughed, and it was fulfilling to see the children smile and laugh for a moment of time. That was something that really impacted me that day.”

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