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Alaskan NORAD Region tracks Santa a.k.a. ‘Big Red One’


JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Royal Canadian Air Force Capt. Dave Gosselin, 176th Air Defense Squadron senior director, tracks aircraft in Alaskan air space ensuring air sovereignty in the Alaskan NORAD Region Regional Air Operations Center (RAOC). U.S. and Canadian servicemembers 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.

U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. John Gordinier

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- NORAD conducts a special mission on Dec. 24 – tracking Santa across the globe to ensure Santa experiences safe travels during his yuletide journey and Alaskan NORAD Region or ANR plays a vital part in that mission.

U.S. and Canadian servicemembers of the 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.

“We ensure Santa’s flight is successful and safe within the 1.3 million square miles of Alaskan airspace he will be traveling,” said Tech. Sgt. Christopher Cordiner, 176th Air Defense Squadron air surveillance technician, Alaska Air National Guard. “This is a very important mission and making sure all goes safely as planned is imperative. We only get a few distinguished VIPs of this caliber every year. The bottom line is making sure his flight goes as planned delivering toys to all the good children.”

Like other regions within NORAD, aircraft are on stand-by at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson to intercept and fly alongside Santa also known as “Big Red One” and his reindeer to assist in any way.

The tradition of NORAD tracking Santa or NTS dates back to 1955. According to the noradsanta.org web site, “The program began December 24, 1955, when an incorrect phone number encouraging children to call Santa on Christmas was printed in a local Sears Roebuck and Co. newspaper advertisement.  Instead of Santa, the number actually dialed the Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) Air Operations Center, NORAD’s predecessor organization, in Colorado Springs, Colo. Air Force Colonel Harry Shoup, the commander on duty that night, told callers he wasn’t Santa, but he would check the radar for Santa’s official location as he made his journey across the globe.”

Each year since, NORAD has dutifully reported Santa’s location on Dec. 24 to millions of children and families across the globe who inquire as to his whereabouts. Any who play a part in that mission are honored.

“This is my third time to participate in NTS and I am deeply honored to be a part of it,” said Staff Sgt. Cirena Pritchett, 176th ADS identification technician. “Santa is a great man who brings happiness to all the little boys and girls of the world and I will ensure he has no interruptions while making his deliveries here in the great state of Alaska.”

“This is my first Christmas with the unit and my first time being able to support Santa in such a direct role and insuring his mission success,” said Staff Sgt. Christopher Watkins, 176th ADS tracking technician, Alaska Air National Guard. “I am happy to be a part of this very important mission and I wish Santa a safe flight and God speed.”

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 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. 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 www.twitter.com/noradsanta @ NoradSanta.

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