New York National Guard supporting NORAD Santa tracking operations

Kaden Darrah, sitting in for Santa Claus while Santa is busy around the world, spends time with his niece Santa Oaklin McCargar-Darrah on Peria Hill in Saranac Lake on Sunday. (Provided photo — Brooke Darrah-Foster)

ROME — New York Air National Guardsmen and Royal Canadian Air Force personnel at the Eastern Air Defense Sector will be hard at work Christmas Eve as the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) tracks Santa Claus for the 65th consecutive year.

“We’re delighted to support NORAD’s Santa tracking operations again this year,” said Col. Paul M. Bishop, EADS commander. “I can assure everyone that EADS will do everything in its power to assist Santa with his critical mission.”

Due to safety concerns created by COVID-19, a limited number of volunteers will be allowed in the NORAD Tracks Santa command post at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colorado. This means fewer phone operators to update Santa’s travels. Callers who are unable to reach a live operator, however, will hear a constantly updated message on Santa’s whereabouts.

The tracking operations start at 4 a.m. on Dec. 24 on the www.noradsanta.org website. At 6 a.m., children and parents can call to inquire about Santa by dialing the toll-free number 1-877-Hi-NORAD (1-877-446-6723).

Anytime on Dec. 24, Amazon Alexa users can ask for Santa’s location through the NORAD Tracks Santa skill for Amazon Alexa, and OnStar subscribers can press the OnStar button in their vehicles to locate Santa. The official NORAD Tracks Santa app has also been updated this year and is available in the Apple App and Google Play stores, enabling parents and children to follow on their smart phones and tablets. Tracking opportunities are also offered through social media on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram.

Tracking Santa has been a tradition since 1955 when a local newspaper advertisement misprinted an “Ask Santa” call-in number. Instead of reaching Santa, the phone rang through to U.S. Air Force Col. Harry Shoup, the crew commander at the Continental Air Defense Command Operations Center, the predecessor to NORAD. Shoup quickly realized a mistake had been made and assured the child he was Santa. Shoup then assigned a duty officer to continue answering calls. Thus, a holiday tradition was born, which NORAD has carried on since it was created in 1958.

A bi-national Canadian and American command, NORAD’s top priority is the defense of North America. NORAD employs a network of space-based, aerial and ground-based sensors, air-to-air refueling tankers and fighter aircraft on alert, controlled by a sophisticated command and control network to detect, deter, and defend against aerial threats that originate outside or within North American airspace.

EADS is located at the Griffiss Business and Technology Park in Rome, New York, and is part of the Continental U.S. NORAD Region. Responsible for the air defense of the eastern U.S., the organization is composed of the New York Air National Guard’s 224th Air Defense Group, a Canadian Forces detachment, U.S. Army and Navy liaison officers, federal civilians and contractors. EADS also has two detachments in the National Capital Region.


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