RAF MILDENHALL, England --
Ray Hoogendijk is making it his mission to encourage Team Mildenhall members and their families to get outdoors and participate in activities together.
A local national direct hire civilian, the new 100th Force Support Squadron Outdoor Recreation program manager is focusing on setting up and running excursions and reinvigorating the program for activities such as surfing, adventure training, mountain climbing, hiking, sailing, paddle boarding and a whole host of other water sports.
Son of a Dutch father and British mother, Hoogendijk was born in the Netherlands and moved to England’s Norfolk coast when he was 5. Now working for the U.S. Air Force, he spent 16 years in the British Army as an infantry soldier in the Royal Anglian Regiment, and in addition to being stationed in Northern Ireland and Afghanistan, has travelled all around the world.
After leaving active duty, Hoogendijk became a private security consultant for the army and was stationed in Afghanistan, during which time he also travelled to Africa, did walks in Kenya, sailed and dove in Thailand, and came back to the UK to do sailing, which became his greatest passion. He later rejoined the military and gained a degree in humanities.
“While I was in the army, I sailed with their off-shore race team and dinghy team,” said Hoogendijk. “The off-shore race circuit is a big deal across the world, and belonging to a military team provided me many opportunities, including being invited to Thailand to join their Royal Yacht Club.”
A real-life “action man,” the former infantry NCO has first-hand experience of parachuting and global expedition planning, and was part of the British Army cycling team. He also gained his Yacht Master offshore license through the Royal Yachting Association, all of which gave him the perfect background and experience as Team Mildenhall’s outdoor recreation program manager.
“A lot of the military experience I have predominantly involves planning and conducting high-level activities, whether it be war-fighting or adventure training, and those skills are quite transferable,” Hoogendijk said. “The army taught me to be punctual, organized and how to deal with a multitude of different people.”
Living on the Norfolk coast from a young age meant Hoogendijk was constantly around boats and sailing became a way of life for him.
“I lived in the middle of nowhere, so I was either cycling, sailing or doing some other outdoor activity. By the time I joined the army I was already good at mountain biking, kayaking and sailing, and at just 17 when I joined, I was sent away to do my kayaking instructor’s course, as well as being put on the cycling and boxing teams,” he added, describing how he spend most of his early years going on adventure training.
Hoogendijk’s years of military training have stood him in good stead over the years, pushing his fitness and agility to the limits, and confirming his love of adventure.
“In the British Army, adventure training is part of what you do – rifle drills, running and fitness, and adventure training. I did that every couple of months, as well as warfighting, covert operations and going out to Afghanistan.”
Bringing his wealth of knowledge to RAF Mildenhall, Hoogendijk’s role includes encouraging people to take trips and participate in outdoor activities.
“I’m really passionate about those things and I think that comes across. I love sailing and being in the forest doing mountain biking, and I want to instill that passion to other people,” he explained. “I feel it’s important to open people’s eyes to the opportunities that outdoor recreation can deliver.
Life can be stressful, especially military life, and with the demanding mission that Team Mildenhall has, it can be tough to achieve a balance and find something to revive the mind, body and spirit.
With the Air Force’s emphasis on being physically, mentally, socially and spiritually fit, Airmen and their families are encouraged to participate in pastimes to unwind and have fun. This in turn leads to the mission being accomplished, family life becoming more enriched and Airmen being ready, balanced and better.
“I know adventure training can have such an impact on people – if you talk to anyone after they’ve been up and down Mount Snowdon, or if they’ve sailed across the channel to France, they’re so proud of themselves because they can say, ‘I did that! I’m part of a team!’ That, for me, is what I get up for every day,” Hoogendijk said.
His passion for the outdoors is what makes him the perfect person for the job of outdoor program manager, according to Hoogendijk’s leadership.
“Whether it's on the water or on the land, Ray sees the natural beauty in nature and goes out of his way to make it known – like me,” remarked CJ Dalton, 100th FSS Outdoor Recreation director. “The peace and quiet of our natural surroundings is, without question, an experience to be fully appreciated.
“Ray has only been with us for a short time, but brings a certain energy waiting to be unleashed. I look forward to March when ODR takes off for its spring trip and I can’t wait to see him in action. Watch out RAF Mildenhall,” exclaimed Dalton.
Upcoming events include Go Below, Zip World and hiking in Snowdonia. Outdoor recreation also organizes trips for individual shops and squadrons, and many family-oriented activities, both within East Anglia and further afield, such as Cornwall and the west coast of Scotland.
For more information, call DSN 238-4283, or commercial on 01638-544283.