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Tracking Santa

By Staff Sgt. Lee Roberts, USAF
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 18, 1996 – Defense officials have instructed the Pentagon's National Military Command Center to stand up the Santa Reporting System on Christmas Eve to confirm when Kris Kringle and his team of terrestrial navigators enter the nation's airspace.

Working with North American Aerospace Defense Command and Strategic Command officials, National Military Command Control Team No. 5 will use an advanced missile tracking satellite system, dynamic radar and galactic binoculars to monitor the skies for Saint Nick's arrival, officials said.

Led by Rear Adm. Gene Kendall, deputy director for current operations, the team has been instructed to call Marine Lt. Gen. Pete Pace, the Joint Staff J-3 Operations Directorate director, when Santa and his reindeer cross over the North Pole headed for America. Pace will in turn notify National Command Authorities and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Air Force Maj. J. C. Crownover, a space-systems-support surveillance officer, said the team tracks Santa Claus each year to ensure his sleigh travels safely through inclement weather and to warn commercial and military aircraft to keep out of the jolly man's path.

Crownover noted tracking systems can and do differentiate between Santa and a missile or aircraft -- friend or foe. "Santa is easy to track because he's not burning as bright as missiles and aircraft do," he said. "We really use the ability of the satellites to track something going fast as opposed to something burning. However, if we have bad weather, we can detect Rudolph's red nose with our infrared satellite."

Officials shouldn't have to depend on Rudolph's nose too often this year because Air Force weather officials predict few obstacles for Santa Claus and his reindeer on Christmas Eve. Capt. Kristen Schmitt, Air Force staff weather officer, forecasts windy and cold conditions on Christmas Eve, but no precipitation. She said an extended outlook shows mild conditions are expected in the western and southern regions, while freezing rain is a possibility in some Midwestern states. It should snow in upper elevations of the Midwest, and in Minnesota and North Dakota.

Schmitt added a possibility exists Santa Claus may be slightly delayed with heavy snow in New England and around the Great Lakes. But Santa has lots of experience traveling in these conditions, and kids shouldn't worry.

Kendall, Army Lt. Col. George L. Adamakos, Air Force Lt. Col. William R. Hanson, Air Force Lt. Col. Greg Smith, Navy Lt. Cmdr. Matthew L. Klunder, Navy Lt. Cmdr. William T. Cooney, Air Force Maj. David L. Peck, Navy Lt. Don Means, Air Force Capt. Bob J. Weber, Air Force Capt. Dion R. Wall, Army Sgt. 1st Class Jerry L. Feuchtwanger, Air Force Tech. Sgt. Aubrey B. Smith, Air Force Tech. Sgt. Chris Richards, Air Force Senior Airman Benjamin Smith, Army Master Sgt. Beverly A. Mcclinton, Air Force Master Sgt. Michael S. Kidd Jr., And Air Force Tech. Sgt. Cynthia Dorman will be on watch in the National Military Command Center from 9 p.m. Christmas Eve to 5 a.m. Christmas Day.

They are ready to keep a watchful eye and willing to report when every child's dream comes true - when Santa is on his way!]

(Roberts is editor of J-Scope, newspaper ofd the Joint Staff)

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