Story by: Time Jones - Eastern Air Defense Sector Dated: Fri, Dec 23, 2011
New York Air National Guard Master Sgt. Chad Gerrard points out Santa’s radar track to Staff Sgt. Kristen Smith, who prepares to relay the information during Santa tracking operations at the Eastern Air Defense Sector in Rome. A New York Air National Guard unit, EADS is a part of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and supports NORAD’s Santa tracking mission every Christmas Eve. (Photo by Tim Jones, Eastern Air Defense Sector (Released))
ROME, NY (12/23/2011)-- New York Air National Guardsmen from the Eastern Air Defense Sector will play a key role Saturday night as the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) tracks Santa Claus and his reindeer.
"NORAD has supported Santa Claus’ Christmas Eve operations for more than 50 years and we are always delighted to participate," said Col. John Bartholf, EADS commander. "I can assure everyone that EADS will do everything in its power to assist Santa with his critical mission."
EADS’ Sector Operations Control Center (SOCC) will monitor Santa constantly as he travels across the eastern U.S. delivering toys and gifts. The SOCC will conduct what’s called a special radar monitor mission on Santa’s sleigh, providing them with continuous location updates. In addition, EADS-controlled fighter aircraft also will be prepared to assist, and in case of poor flying weather, EADS will provide the jolly old elf with navigation and guidance.
Children -- and grown-ups -- interested in watching Santa’s progress on Dec. 24 can sign onto the NORAD Tracks Santa web site at www.noradsanta.org. The current Santa Tracking System employs the Google Earth program and can provide an update of Santa’s location at all times. The web site also offers daily updates from the North Pole and a look at the work going in Santa’s village as he gears up for the big night.
As part of this year’s tracking operation, NORAD will offer opportunities for live interviews from its Santa Operation Center on Dec. 24. NORAD Commander U.S. Army Gen. Charles H. Jacoby, Deputy Commander Canadian Forces Lt. Gen. Tom Lawson and U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Frank J. Grass, Vice Commander, U.S. NORAD Element, will be actively tracking Santa and be available for live satellite interviews staring at 7 a.m. EST.
Media interested in an interview or in downloading video, audio, B-Roll, and select historical "Santa Cam" files should contact Jared Williams with the Defense Video and Imagery Distribution Service (DVIDS) at 678-421-6625 or (877) DVIDS-247 (24-hour hotline). Broadcasters can also visit www.dvidshub.net and click on the media request link. Media outlets desiring live updates on Santa’s whereabouts on Dec. 24 may also call the NORAD Tracks Santa Media Center at (719) 556-1910 or (719) 556-5128.
The Santa tracking tradition started in 1955, when a Colorado Springs, Colo.-based Sears Roebuck & Co. advertisement encouraging local children to call Santa listed an incorrect phone number. Instead of reaching Santa, the phone number went into to the Continental Air Defense Command’s operations hotline. Col. Harry Shoup, the operations director, had his staff check the radar for indications of Santa making his way south from the North Pole. Children who called were given location updates and a tradition was born.
In 1958, the governments of Canada and the United States created the bi-national air defense command North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), which then took on the tradition of tracking Santa.
The Eastern Air Defense Sector is headquartered at Griffiss Business and Technology Park in Rome. Staffed by active-duty New York Air National Guardsmen and a Canadian Forces detachment, the unit supports the North American Aerospace Defense Command’s (NORAD) integrated warning and attack assessment missions and the U.S. Northern Command’s (USNORTHCOM) homeland defense mission. EADS is responsible for air sovereignty and counter-air operations over the eastern United States and directs a variety of assets to defend one million square miles of land and sea.