HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE -- With Christmas being only a week away, Holloman Air Force Base worked heavily to prepare for Santa's Christmas Eve flight during Operation Assist Santa on Thursday. Holloman has been annually involved with this mission since 1942.
"Our job is to help Santa maneuver his way through the Southwestern part of the United States, particularly in New Mexico," said Col. Lyle Drew, 49th Maintenance Group Commander. "Throughout our rich history, we've helped Santa make his way across this part of the country at this important time of year for children all across the Southwest."
"We want to make sure Santa has a free and clear path from the North Pole through and to New Mexico," Drew said. "We think it's absolutely important for the 34,000 plus residents of Alamogordo that we help them have a great holiday season."
This year, Holloman was also asked to serve as a distribution center for presents. Airmen rushed around Thursday morning to move crates of presents onto a trailer for Santa on Bear Base. During the rest of the year, Bear Base supplies containers for deployment and sets up bases in situations such as natural disasters.
"It's a real blast," said Airman 1st Class Joseph Shaffer. "It's awesome to help Santa out and it's a great way to help the kids out and give them a merry Christmas. There's nothing better than Christmas."
Holloman plans to use their three primary aircrafts, the F-16 Fighting Falcon, MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper to help escort Santa across the Southwest on Christmas Eve.
"The camera on the MQ-1 make sure the roofs are acceptable for Santa's landings," said Capt. Joel Holley. "This particular plane (the MQ-1) is equipped with a naughty or nice sensor to help out Santa and the MQ-9's have a sleep sensor to make sure the kids are asleep when Santa comes to visit."
Lt. Josh Earl said Holloman has been training extensively for the last six months to support Santa on his mission.
"We've been clearing the air space to make sure we don't have any threats in the area so that he has opportunity to get his mission done as effectively and efficiently as possible," Earl said. "It's an absolute honor to give back to our local community."