NORAD and the Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD), its predecessor, have followed Santa’s path for 62 years now.
COLLIN BREAUX News Herald Reporter @PCNHCollinB
TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE — While Santa travels across North America this Christmas, a tenant unit at Tyndall Air Force Base will monitor his every movement for all the boys and girls across the continent.
The 601st Air Operations Center, a subordinate unit of NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command), is staying busy this holiday season monitoring Saint Nick via radar and other means as he heads to Florida and elsewhere. NORAD and the Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD), its predecessor, have followed Santa’s path for 62 years now. The custom complements their mission of monitoring air traffic as part of its defense mission.
The side mission began in 1955 after an advertisement misprint led children to call a CONAD operations hotline looking for Santa. The director of operations humored the kids who wanted to speak to the big guy in red, and NORAD has kept up the ritual ever since.
“It’s become a beloved annual tradition, for NORAD and the citizens of the United States and Canada,” 601st Executive Officer Maj. Peter Shinn said. “We’re delighted to help guide and track Santa on his mission from the North Pole.”
601st personnel, including Senior Air Defense Officer Ronnie Evans, were busy monitoring Santa’s movements and all radar traffic in North America at their operations center Friday, where large computer screens showed Santa traveling in the sky with his reindeer. This is Evans’ second year tracking Santa, which he said has been “awesome.”
“It gets out what we do out here,” Evans said. “I think the whole story is cool.”
Others, like 601st spokesman Maj. Andrew Scott, have kept up with Santa’s journey much longer. This is his 11th year tracking Santa, which he called a “cool program” that showed how “folks come together” at NORAD.
Underneath the whimsy, the 601st and NORAD have a very serious focus since they pay attention to radar conditions at all hours for threats. Shinn said it’s a lighthearted way to show the civilian population they’re forever vigilant.
“It’s a chance to show the entire world that we’re always on guard,” Shinn said. “We’re doing it even on Christmas Day. … It shows we’re on guard 24/7 for the North American people.”
For more info, check the official online NORAD Santa tracker at noradsanta.org or visit the NORAD Tracks Santa Facebook page.
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