NORAD tracks Santa’s trek across the world

Last year, New York Air National Guardsmen Master Sgt. Shane Reid, front, and Tech. Sgt. Brady King, both of the 224th Air Defense Squadron, train for Santa tracking operations at the Eastern Air Defense Sector in Rome. [Photo by Air Force Capt. Jason Cole]

As the North American Aerospace Defense Command conducts its primary mission of defending the homeland, it stands ready to continue its tradition of tracking Santa’s journey around the globe Dec. 24.

“In addition to our day-to-day mission of defending North America, we are proud to carry on the tradition of tracking Santa as he travels along his yuletide flight path,” said Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy, commander of NORAD and U.S. Northern Command. “The same radars, satellites and interceptors employed on December 24 are used year-round to defend Canadian and American airspace from threats.”

The defense of Canada and the United States is NORAD’s top priority. NORAD is a binational U.S. and Canadian command charged with aerospace and maritime warning and aerospace control of North America as well as monitoring aerospace activity globally. However, every year during the holidays, NORAD assumes the supplementary mission of tracking Santa as he travels around the world.

It all started in 1955 when a local newspaper advertisement informed children they could call Santa directly – only the contact number in the advertisement was misprinted. Instead of reaching Santa, the phone rang through to the crew commander on duty, U.S. Air Force Colonel Harry Shoup, at the Continental Air Defense Command Operations Center, NORAD’s predecessor. Shoup was quick to realize a mistake had been made, and assured the child he was Santa. Shoup then assigned a duty officer to continue answering calls. Thus, a tradition was born, and continued when NORAD was formed in 1958. Each year since, NORAD has reported Santa’s location on Dec. 24 to millions of children and families.

NORAD Tracks Santa has flourished and is recognized as one of the Defense Department’s largest community outreach programs.

The 64th iteration of NORAD Tracks Santa began Dec. 1, with the launch of site, noradsanta.org. NORAD Tracks Santa is truly a global experience, due, in large part, to the efforts and services of many program contributors and volunteers.

On Dec. 24, call 1-877-HiNORAD for Santa’s location