NORAD Set to Track Santa; Commander Thanks Troops, Families
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 21, 2007 Members of North American Aerospace Defense Command are gearing up to track Santa Claus’ travels on Christmas Eve, providing detailed information about his whereabouts on the command’s Web site and through a toll-free telephone line.
Air Force Gen. Victor E. Renuart Jr., commander of NORAD and U.S. Northern Command, delivered a tongue-in-cheek assessment of the Santa-tracking mission.
He reported a “consistent phenomenon” the command has tracked for decades. “Sometime around the 24th of December, this individual begins to take flight, and he makes a very rapid trip around the globe,” he said.
When Continental Air Defense Command, NORAD’s predecessor, first took notice of this flight in the 1950s, “there was a great concern, because we didn’t know if this was a threat to our country and to free nations around the world,” Renuart said. “What we found is, this gentleman brings good everywhere he goes.”
NORAD’s system to track this person has evolved over the years, refined through the use of radar systems, satellite sensors and communications and interactive information technologies, he said. “So we can precisely, at any time along his flight, identify his location, ensure he has the proper protection and … he can complete his mission on time.”
The NORAD elves are looking forward to tracking Santa again this year, Renuart said. From 2 a.m. Mountain Time Dec. 24 through 2 a.m. Mountain Time Christmas Day, they’ll track his progress, posting details on the command’s Web site at www.noradsanta.org.
“At any time in this process, they can find out where Santa is and when he should be into their area,” Renuart said.
In addition, children can call the NORAD hotline at 877-HI-NORAD toll-free to check up on Santa. Translators we be on hand to report on his travels in six different languages, Renuart said. They’ll also remind children that Santa can’t come to their houses if they’re awake, he said.
“It’s an amazing planning process Santa goes through to arrive in each part of the world after the children have gone to sleep to ensure that he can review whether they have been good or bad, naughty or nice, and reward them appropriately,” Renuart said. “So it’s a mission we take very seriously, and we are looking forward to it.”
The Santa-tracking mission dates back to 1955, after an ad in a local newspaper printed an incorrect number for Santa Claus that sent callers to Continental Air Defense Command’s operations center. Its commander, Col. Harry Shoup, started the tradition of tracking Santa, a mission NORAD assumed in 1958.
Last year, the command’s Santa-tracking Web site received more than 941 million page views from 210 countries and territories, NORAD officials reported. In addition, 756 volunteers answered more than 65,000 calls to the toll-free phone line.
While enjoying the levity of the mission, Renuart turned serious to extend thoughts and prayers to young men and women deployed in harm’s way around the world and to their families who will spend the holidays without their loved ones.
“This is a difficult time in our country’s history as we continue to struggle against this rash of violent extremism around the world,” he said. “We’ve got great members of our military who have given selflessly of themselves. But importantly, their families have given selflessly as well, and our thoughts and prayers go out to them.”
“We wish them all the best in this holiday season,” he said. “We want them to be safe, and we want them to return home safely just as soon as this mission allows.”
Meanwhile, Renuart assured that NORAD and NORTHCOM will continue carrying out their mission to ensure troops their families are protected and that, if disaster strikes in their communities, it’s ready to respond.
“We take this job very seriously, and we are committed to make sure that when they arrive home safely, they come back to a safe home, as well,” he said.