ROME, N.Y – New York Air National Guardsmen and Royal Canadian Air Force personnel from the Eastern Air Defense Sector will play a key role Christmas Eve as the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) tracks Santa Claus and his reindeer.
“NORAD has supported Santa Claus’ Christmas Eve operations for 64 years and we are always delighted to help,” said Col. Emil J. Filkorn, EADS Commander. “I can assure everyone that EADS will do everything in its power to assist Santa with his critical mission.”
Located at the Griffiss Business and Technology Park in Rome, New York, EADS is part of the U.S. Continental NORAD Region (CONR) and monitors the skies of the United States east of the Mississippi. The organization is manned by members of the New York Air National Guard’s 224th Air Defense Group.
EADS also includes a Canadian Forces detachment, and U.S. Army and Navy liaison officers, federal civilians and contractors. EADS also has two detachments in the National Capital Region.
The defense of Canada and the United States is NORAD’s top priority.
A binational U.S. and Canadian command charged with aerospace and maritime warning and aerospace control of North America, NORAD also monitors aerospace activity globally.
But every year during the holidays, NORAD assumes the supplementary mission of tracking Santa as he travels around the world, according to Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, the commander of NORAD and U.S. Northern Command.
“We are proud to carry on the tradition of tracking Santa as he travels along his yuletide flight path,” O’Shaughnessy, said. “The same radars, satellites and interceptors employed on December 24 are used year-round to defend Canadian and American airspace from threats.”
NORAD’s annual Santa tracking event dates back to the 1950s.
In 1955 when a Colorado Springs newspaper carried an advertisement informing children they could call Santa directly – only the contact number in the advertisement was misprinted. Instead of reaching Santa, the phone rang through to the crew commander on duty, U.S. Air Force Colonel Harry Shoup, at the Continental Air Defense Command Operations Center, the predecessor to NORAD.
Shoup was quick to realize a mistake had been made, and assured the child he was Santa. Shoup then assigned a duty officer to continue answering calls. Thus, a tradition was born, and continued when NORAD was formed in 1958. Each year since, NORAD has reported Santa’s location on Dec. 24 to millions of children and families, according to NORAD.
The NORAD Track Santa effort today involves almost 1,500 volunteers who help answer the phone calls asking for an update on Santa’s location. Private companies also contribute to the effort and allow Santa to be tracked online and on Social media.