NY National Guard Airmen will be Tracking Santa Claus on his Christmas Eve Flight

Airmen at the Eastern Air Defense Sector recently conduct training in preparation for Santa's Christmas Eve flight at the Easter Air Defense Sector headquarters in Rome, N.Y. as part of the annual NORAD Tracks Santa effort. Pictured, front to back, are Senior Airman Timothy Destito of the New York Air National Guard; Capt. John Byeon, Royal Canadian Air Force, and Capt. Sarah Atherton, New York Air National Guard.

Special To Oswego County Today:
ROME, NY – As North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) Tracks Santa ramps up this year, the New York Air National Guardsmen and Royal Canadian Air Force personnel of the Eastern Air Defense Sector play a key role Dec. 24.

Airmen at the Eastern Air Defense Sector recently conduct training in preparation for Santa’s Christmas Eve flight at the Easter Air Defense Sector headquarters in Rome, N.Y. as part of the annual NORAD Tracks Santa effort. Pictured, front to back, are Senior Airman Timothy Destito of the New York Air National Guard; Capt. John Byeon, Royal Canadian Air Force, and Capt. Sarah Atherton, New York Air National Guard.

“NORAD has supported Santa Claus’ Christmas Eve operations for 60 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.”

Every year during the holidays, NORAD assumes the supplementary mission of tracking Santa as he travels around the world.

The same radars, satellites and interceptors employed on December 24 are used year round to defend Canada and the United States.

In 1958, the governments of Canada and the United States created the bi-national air defense command North American Aerospace Defense Command, which then took on the tradition of tracking Santa.

The Santa tracking tradition started in 1955, when a Colorado Springs, Colorado Sears Roebuck & Co. advertisement encouraging local children to call Santa listed an incorrect phone number.

Instead of reaching Santa, the phone number went into to the Continental Air Defense Command’s operations hotline.

Col. Harry Shoup, the operations director, could have just hung up; demanded Sears print a correction.

But instead, he had his staff check the radar for indications of Santa making his way south from the North Pole.

Children who called were given location updates — and a tradition was born!

Santa calls back to NORAD and he talks to the “elves” (volunteers). That’s how Santa knows the skies ahead are clear, the elves tell him if he’s keeping on track. Then the U.S. and Canadians call those volunteers to be sure he’s getting to every point that he needs to based on the radar.

There have been times when there are “a hundred and sometimes a thousand calls from anxious kids every hour” to the call center.

Santa starts at NORAD. He stops down for his high-tech pre-flight checkup as he and his slegh full of gifts are secured for takeoff. Then he is joined by some matter-anti-matter fueled warp speed F-16s.

On Dec. 24, parents and children can call 1-877-HiNORAD (446-6723) for Santa’s up-to-date location.

Santa’s location can also be tracked at the NORAD Tracks Santa website, www.noradsanta.org, or on Facebook and Twitter at @NORADSanta.