HomeNewsArticle Display

Alaska Airmen keep Santa in sight

Royal Canadian air force Capt. Dave Gosselin tracks aircraft in Alaska air space ensuring air sovereignty in the Alaskan NORAD Region Regional Air Operations Center. U.S. and Canadian service members utilize 15 radar stations to monitor Santa as he traverses the airspace around the northern latitudes of North America, a mission ANR has successfully accomplished for 50 years. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. John Gordinier)

Royal Canadian air force Capt. Dave Gosselin tracks aircraft in Alaska air space ensuring air sovereignty in the Alaskan NORAD Region Regional Air Operations Center Dec. 19, 2013, at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska. U.S. and Canadian service members utilize 15 radar stations to monitor Santa as he traverses the airspace around the northern latitudes of North America, a mission ANR has successfully accomplished for 50 years. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. John Gordinier)

Col. Harry Shoup, the operations officer at NORAD on Dec. 24, 1955, answered a child's wrong-number call and began the tradition of NORAD tracking Santa. Shoup died March 14, 2009, yet the tradition he started decades ago continues to bring holiday cheer to millions of children around the world. (Courtesy photo)

Col. Harry Shoup, the operations officer at NORAD on Dec. 24, 1955, answered a child's wrong-number call and began the tradition of NORAD tracking Santa. Shoup died March 14, 2009, yet the tradition he started decades ago continues to bring holiday cheer to millions of children around the world. (Courtesy photo)

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska (AFNS) -- Officials with the North American Aerospace Defense Command will conduct a special mission on Dec. 24 -- tracking Santa across the globe to ensure Santa experiences safe travels during his yuletide journey.

U.S. and Canadian service members of the Alaskan NORAD Region utilize 15 radar stations to monitor Santa as he traverses the airspace around the northern latitudes of North America. It's a mission ANR has successfully accomplished for 50 years.

"We ensure Santa's flight is successful and safe within the 1.3 million square miles of Alaska airspace he will be traveling," said Tech. Sgt. Christopher Cordiner, a 176th Air Defense Squadron air surveillance technician with the Alaska Air National Guard.

"This is a very important mission and making sure all goes safely as planned is imperative," Cordiner said. "We only get a few distinguished VIPs of this caliber every year. The bottom line is making sure his flight goes as planned delivering toys to all the good children."

Like other regions within NORAD, aircraft are on standby at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson here to intercept and fly alongside Santa also known as "Big Red One" and his reindeer to assist in any way.

The tradition of NORAD tracking Santa dates back to Christmas Eve of 1955.  According to the noradsanta.org website, the program began December 24, 1955, when an incorrect phone number encouraging children to call Santa on Christmas was printed in a local Sears Roebuck and Co. newspaper advertisement.

Instead of Santa, the number actually dialed the Air Operations Center at Continental Air Defense Command, NORAD's predecessor organization, in Colorado Springs, Colo.

The phone that rang that night was the top-secret crisis phone - and a call on that line meant serious trouble.

Air Force Col. Harry Shoup, the commander on duty that night, was not amused, he said in a 2005 interview.

He answered with a crisp "Yes, sir?" expecting to hear Air Force Gen. Earle Partridge, the NORAD commander, giving an order.

Instead, a little boy told him what he wanted for Christmas.

Shoup was suddenly even less amused, and started looking around the room for whichever Airman was on the phone and trying to stifle a grin.

"I thought, 'Someone's playing a joke, and I don't stand for that,'" Shoup said in the interview. "If I see who's laughing out there, I'm going to nail him good."

But no one was laughing. The little boy on the other end of the line sensed something was amiss.

"You're not Santa," Shoup recalled him saying.

"Oh-ho-ho, yes I am," Shoup responded.

Soon, the phone was ringing constantly and Shoup pulled some Airmen aside and told them to answer the calls and "Just pretend you're Santa."

Instead of having Sears pull the ad, Shoup offered the kids something else, Airmen would check the radar for Santa's official location as he made his journey across the globe.

Each year since, NORAD has dutifully reported Santa's location on Dec. 24 to millions of children and families across the globe who inquire as to his whereabouts.

Shoup passed away in 2009 at the age of 92, but his spur-of-the-moment decision to be Santa lives on.

The Airmen who play a part in that mission said they are honored to be part of the holiday tradition.

"This is my first Christmas with the unit and my first time being able to support Santa in such a direct role and ensuring his mission success," said Staff Sgt. Christopher Watkins, a 176th ADS tracking technician. "I am happy to be a part of this very important mission and I wish Santa a safe flight and Godspeed."

When not tracking Santa, the ANR mission is to continuously provide warning of an aerospace attack within the region.

ANR maintains aerospace control, peacetime air sovereignty and appropriate aerospace defense measures in response to hostile actions.

The Regional Air Operations Center component of ANR is composed of all active Guard members, Canadian armed forces service members, and active-duty augmentees.

Since its early days, the Santa mission has also gone more high-tech than phones these days. Children of all ages interested in tracking Santa can do so at www.noradsanta.org/. There is also the NORAD Tracks Santa Facebook page at facebook.com/noradsanta, or follow Santa's progress on Twitter @NoradSanta.

Engage

Twitter
RT @US_TRANSCOM: A @usairforce KC-135 refuels a B-2 Spirit in @US_EUCOM during a bomber task force mission.Tankers fuel the required reach…
Twitter
RT @SecAFOfficial: A senior leader message during #SuicidePreventionMonth: "You are our greatest strength and the beating heart of our Air…
Twitter
RT @SecAFOfficial: Congratulations to the @USAirForce’s 12 Outstanding #Airmen of the Year on earning recognition as exemplary performers i…
Twitter
RT @RealAFOSI: 1/ #DidYouKnow Sept. is Insider Threat Awareness Month? No environment is immune from the threat posed by trusted insiders.…
Twitter
RT @GenCQBrownJr: Sharene and I take the caring and well-being of our Airmen and their families very seriously. Thank you @AirForceAssoc fo…
Twitter
RT @GenCQBrownJr: Everyone wants to make their mark on the world. But why make just one? https://t.co/g1iX4pzU9b
Twitter
10 years have passed since #DontAskDontTell was repealed. @UnderSecAF Gina Ortiz Jones celebrated the milestone by… https://t.co/i1kTNvykzM
Twitter
RT @GenCQBrownJr: It’s going to take all of our Airmen, Active-duty, Reserve and Guard to secure this nation’s future. https://t.co/4P3CUiQ…
Twitter
RT @UnderSecAF: A few years ago, only two small businesses joined us at AFA--this year we have 40+. @AFWERX works with these companies ever…
Twitter
RT @SecAFOfficial: SecAF is meeting with defense industry leaders today during the @AirForceAssoc’s #ASC21 events. In his #OneTeamOneFigh
Twitter
RT @GenCQBrownJr: Our rate of change needs to increase. We must move with a sense of urgency today in order to rise to the challenges of to…
Twitter
.@AETCommand is working to remove barriers in the pilot candidate selection process. Learn more about the changes… https://t.co/ANcqVRdsNz
Twitter
.@UnderSecAF Gina Ortiz Jones spoke on the anniversary of DADT... https://t.co/zZYqHOTp8V
Twitter
RT @SecAFOfficial: "We are in a national, strategic, long-term contest with a formidable adversary and what you do every day is important t…
Twitter
"We must move with a sense of urgency today in order to rise to the challenges of tomorrow. Because the return to s… https://t.co/yeYvmOaOos
Twitter
RT @GenCQBrownJr: Our collaboration with industry is integral to ensuring we are able to compete, deter and win tomorrow against peer adver…
Facebook
The newest Air Force Podcast recently dropped. Listen to a small snippet of CMSAF Kaleth O. Wright talk with Staff Sgt. New about resiliency. Listen to the entire podcast on Youtube: https://go.usa.gov/xpnAD or Subscribe to The Air Force Podcast on iTunes: https://podcasts.apple.com/podcast/the-air-force-podcast/id1264107694?mt=2
Facebook
Our mantra, "Always ready!" It's the spirit we fly by! #B2Tuesday
Facebook
Need some motivation to get your week started off right? Listen as CMSAF Kaleth O. Wright weighs in...
Facebook
The U.S. Air Force Academy gives its cadets some unique opportunities. Ride along one of this opportunities.
Facebook
A United States Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker refuels an F-22 Raptor over northern Iraq, Nov. 6, 2019. U.S. Central Command operations deter adversaries and demonstrate support for allies and partners in the region. (Video by Staff Sgt. Daniel Snider)
Facebook
Although the Silver Star is the third-highest military medal, it's not given often. Today, TSgt Cody Smith was the 49th Special Tactics Airman to receive this medal since Sept. 11th, 2001. Read more of TSgt Smith's amazing story: https://www.airforcespecialtactics.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/2024815/special-tactics-airman-battled-through-injuries-awarded-silver-star/fbclid/IwAR2LZWwx1VHdTnQe39rIEBOuJS_0JvMQBBGt7I-E6zsxxn-Lx9387yu43Bc/ Cannon Air Force Base Air Force Special Operations Command United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) U.S. Department of Defense (DoD)
Facebook
Tune in as our Air Force musicians along with other military musicians are awarded the National Medal of Arts.
Facebook
Like Us
Twitter
1,377,926
Follow Us