An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

HomeNewsArticle Display

AF chaplain brings puppets to life

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Chaplain (Capt.) Randy Croft, 460th Space Wing chaplain, has practiced ventriloquism since the third grade and has since put on nearly 300 performances. He performed everywhere from Christmas parties and conventions to drug-free messages in schools. (U.S. Air Force graphic by Senior Airman Christopher Gross)

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Chaplain (Capt.) Randy Croft, 460th Space Wing chaplain, has practiced ventriloquism since the third grade and has since put on nearly 300 performances. He performed everywhere from Christmas parties and conventions to drug-free messages in schools. (U.S. Air Force graphic by Senior Airman Christopher Gross)

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- They don't like being called dummies; they prefer puppets, figures or Mannequin Americans -- anything but the term, dummy. They find it degrading and disrespectful, according to Dexter Smiley, a puppet at the everlasting age of 10 years old.

Dexter and his sidekick, Chaplain (Capt.) Randy Croft, 460th Space Wing chaplain, have performed as a team for almost 25 years. However, Croft has been making people laugh with his ventriloquism talents since the third grade.

Croft said his interest in ventriloquism started with The Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy Show, a black-and-white production Croft watched when he was younger. Enamored by the show and the skill of ventriloquism, he asked for a Charlie McCarthy puppet for his birthday.

"I was in third grade and I begged my mother for one for my birthday. I got an electric blanket instead. So, I threw a fit and got grounded and spent my birthday in my room," said Croft.

Nonetheless, Croft got his puppet for Christmas that year and he immediately began teaching himself the art of ventriloquism. He began going to the library and reading books on how to make the substitute sounds. For example, instead of saying "peanut butter" with a "p," the letter "d" would be substituted so the lips wouldn't be seen moving.

"I just got into it because I thought it was creative; I was curious. I liked seeing the puppet talk on TV," Croft said.

Soon, after spending countless hours practicing, Croft performed at his school for younger children.

"It just got out of hand. I started doing little shows in grade school, then saved up for a better model of puppet," said Croft, a Walla Walla, Wash., native. "I loved hearing people laugh at the puppet's jokes."

That laughter led to Croft's ambition to get even better, and he eventually saved up for his second puppet, Eddie, which had moving eyebrows and eyes, and he could spit. Croft said he had all the "bells and whistles."

Croft and his various puppets performed nearly 300 shows throughout high school and his early college years at Walla Walla University. He performed everywhere from Christmas parties and conventions to drug-free messages in schools.

After doing more shows, Croft invested in a more professional puppet, Dexter, whom he still has today.

The most nerve-racking part of performing, according to Croft, is forgetting his lines.

"I'm up there and thinking, 'Don't mess up your lines,' but you practice enough and hope for the best," Croft said.

He recalled one show where Dexter's mouth button broke during the middle of his performance. All his reading and training paid off as he was quick on his feet and made Dexter go into ventriloquism mode. They performed a while longer and took a quick water break -- enough time for Croft to fix Dexter -- and the two went back out to finish the performance.

Croft and Dexter have performed throughout the U.S. They also went to Russia and Jamaica twice on short-term mission trips working with local children. He bought a "soft-puppet," similar to Jim Henson's Muppet characters, for a trip to the Republic of Zambia and left it with the locals after teaching them how to use the puppets in their own children's programs.

Dexter said he's enjoyed being on the road with Croft, and the two have made a great team; Dexter said he feels the world needs more puppet handlers like Croft.

"I let him think he (runs the show), but we all know he has no routine without me," Dexter said.

As Croft was going through seminary school at Andrews University, Mich., he decided it was time to put Dexter away for a while and focus on his studies. Croft said it took him until seminary to realize ministry was his calling and Dexter would help supplement.

"Even though I'm a pastor -- that's my profession, my calling. That's what I love to do and I feel that's what God wired me up to do," Croft said. He still loves making kids laugh with his ventriloquism.
USAF Comments Policy
If you wish to comment, use the text box below. AF reserves the right to modify this policy at any time.

This is a moderated forum. That means all comments will be reviewed before posting. In addition, we expect that participants will treat each other, as well as our agency and our employees, with respect. We will not post comments that contain abusive or vulgar language, spam, hate speech, personal attacks, violate EEO policy, are offensive to other or similar content. We will not post comments that are spam, are clearly "off topic", promote services or products, infringe copyright protected material, or contain any links that don't contribute to the discussion. Comments that make unsupported accusations will also not be posted. The AF and the AF alone will make a determination as to which comments will be posted. Any references to commercial entities, products, services, or other non-governmental organizations or individuals that remain on the site are provided solely for the information of individuals using this page. These references are not intended to reflect the opinion of the AF, DoD, the United States, or its officers or employees concerning the significance, priority, or importance to be given the referenced entity, product, service, or organization. Such references are not an official or personal endorsement of any product, person, or service, and may not be quoted or reproduced for the purpose of stating or implying AF endorsement or approval of any product, person, or service.

Any comments that report criminal activity including: suicidal behaviour or sexual assault will be reported to appropriate authorities including OSI. This forum is not:

  • This forum is not to be used to report criminal activity. If you have information for law enforcement, please contact OSI or your local police agency.
  • Do not submit unsolicited proposals, or other business ideas or inquiries to this forum. This site is not to be used for contracting or commercial business.
  • This forum may not be used for the submission of any claim, demand, informal or formal complaint, or any other form of legal and/or administrative notice or process, or for the exhaustion of any legal and/or administrative remedy.

AF does not guarantee or warrant that any information posted by individuals on this forum is correct, and disclaims any liability for any loss or damage resulting from reliance on any such information. AF may not be able to verify, does not warrant or guarantee, and assumes no liability for anything posted on this website by any other person. AF does not endorse, support or otherwise promote any private or commercial entity or the information, products or services contained on those websites that may be reached through links on our website.

Members of the media are asked to send questions to the public affairs through their normal channels and to refrain from submitting questions here as comments. Reporter questions will not be posted. We recognize that the Web is a 24/7 medium, and your comments are welcome at any time. However, given the need to manage federal resources, moderating and posting of comments will occur during regular business hours Monday through Friday. Comments submitted after hours or on weekends will be read and posted as early as possible; in most cases, this means the next business day.

For the benefit of robust discussion, we ask that comments remain "on-topic." This means that comments will be posted only as it relates to the topic that is being discussed within the blog post. The views expressed on the site by non-federal commentators do not necessarily reflect the official views of the AF or the Federal Government.

To protect your own privacy and the privacy of others, please do not include personally identifiable information, such as name, Social Security number, DoD ID number, OSI Case number, phone numbers or email addresses in the body of your comment. If you do voluntarily include personally identifiable information in your comment, such as your name, that comment may or may not be posted on the page. If your comment is posted, your name will not be redacted or removed. In no circumstances will comments be posted that contain Social Security numbers, DoD ID numbers, OSI case numbers, addresses, email address or phone numbers. The default for the posting of comments is "anonymous", but if you opt not to, any information, including your login name, may be displayed on our site.

Thank you for taking the time to read this comment policy. We encourage your participation in our discussion and look forward to an active exchange of ideas.