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JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Children around the world know the role the North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD, plays in tracking Santa's Christmas Eve flight around the world. What many don't know is the role an organization in Alaska plays in ensuring Santa makes his deliveries.
U.S. and Canadian servicemembers of the Alaskan NORAD Region, or ANR, 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.
"One of the things we do to help ensure Santa's safety is to track him and make sure we know where he is in case he needs help," said Lt. Col. John Oberst, 176th Air Control Squadron operations officer, Alaska Air National Guard. "During Santa's flight, we send frequent reports on Santa's position to NORAD headquarters."
Like other regions within NORAD, aircraft are on stand-by at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson to intercept and fly alongside Santa and his reindeer to assist in any way. The aircraft assigned to ANR for this mission are part of the 44th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron based at Kadena Air Base, Japan.
The tradition of NORAD tracking Santa dates back to 1955. According to the noradsanta.org web site, "the tradition began in 1955 after a Colorado Springs-based Sears Roebuck & Co. advertisement misprinted the telephone number for children to call Santa. Instead of reaching Santa, the phone number put kids through to the CONAD Commander-in-Chief's operations 'hotline.' The Director of Operations at the time, Colonel Harry Shoup, had his staff check the radar for indications of Santa making his way south from the North Pole. Children who called were given updates on his location, and a tradition was born."
At ANR, servicemembers look forward to the annual opportunity to ensure Santa's safety. "It's definitely a team effort here at ANR, and we look forward to it each year," added Colonel Oberst.
When not tracking Santa, the ANR mission is to continuously provide warning of an aerospace attack within the region and will maintain aerospace control to include peacetime air sovereignty and appropriate aerospace defense measures in response to hostile actions within ANR's area of operation. The Regional Air Operations Center (RAOC) component of ANR is comprised of all Active Guard members, Canadian Component servicemembers, and active duty augmentees.
Children of all ages interested in tracking Santa can do so at http://www.noradsanta.org/, visit the NORAD Tracks Santa Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/noradsanta, follow Santa's progress on Twitter by subscribing to @NoradSanta, or track Santa via mobile phone by downloading the free NORAD Tracks Santa app.