Story by Timothy Jones
New York Air National Guardsmen from the Eastern Air Defense Sector will play a key role Monday night as the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) tracks Santa Claus and his reindeer.
“NORAD has supported Santa Claus’ Christmas Eve operations for more than 50 years and we are always delighted to help,” said Col. Dawne Deskins, EADS commander. “I can assure everyone that EADS will do everything in its power to assist Santa with his critical mission.”
EADS’ Sector Operations Control Center (SOCC) will monitor Santa constantly as he travels across the eastern U.S. delivering toys and gifts. The SOCC will conduct what’s called a special radar monitor mission on Santa’s sleigh, providing them with continuous location updates.
EADS operations are in support of the NORAD Tracks Santa Operations Center at Peterson Air Force Base, which leads the Santa monitoring operation. The Santa Operations Center will be at full capacity on Dec. 24, providing live updates and media opportunities with NORAD’s senior commanders. The center also operates an extensive web site at www.noradsanta.org, where children and parents can track Santa’s movements on-line.
Santa tracking tradition started in 1955, when a Colorado Springs, Colo.-based 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, 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.
In 1958, the governments of Canada and the United States created the bi-national air defense command North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), which then took on the tradition of tracking Santa.
The Eastern Air Defense Sector is headquartered at Griffiss Business and Technology Park in Rome. Staffed by active-duty New York Air National Guardsmen and a Canadian Forces detachment, the unit supports the North American Aerospace Defense Command’s (NORAD) integrated warning and attack assessment missions and the U.S. Northern Command’s (USNORTHCOM) homeland defense mission. EADS is responsible for air sovereignty and counter-air operations over the eastern United States and directs a variety of assets to defend one million square miles of land and sea.