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Air Guard's Northeast Air Defense Sector provide support for NORAD's annual Christmas Eve mission

Staff Sgt. Robert Hale, Northeast Air Defense Sector identification technician keeps a close eye on tracking Santa. To ensure Santa is safe and on schedule, the Air National Guard will ensure that their alert fighter aircraft, controlled by NEADS, are prepared to fly and help Santa at a moment’s notice, if needed. And in case of poor flying weather, NEADS will provide jolly Saint Nick navigation and guidance.

Staff Sgt. Robert Hale, Northeast Air Defense Sector identification technician keeps a close eye on tracking Santa. To ensure Santa is safe and on schedule, the Air National Guard will ensure that their alert fighter aircraft, controlled by NEADS, are prepared to fly and help Santa at a moment’s notice, if needed. And in case of poor flying weather, NEADS will provide jolly Saint Nick navigation and guidance.

Two members of the Northeast Air Defense Sector prepare to track Santa using
their high-tech radar equipment. Staff Sgt. Deborah Martin and Staff Sgt.
Corey Reynolds make sure the high-tech radars that scan the sky above the
eastern United States and Canada are ready to go for St. Nick's annual ride
and the NORAD track Santa Program. NEADS is part of the North American
Aerospace Defense Command, which is the bi-national U.S.-Canadian military
organization responsible for the aerospace and maritime defense of the
United States and Canada. Each year, NORAD tracks Santa, and you can too by
checking out the Web site www.noradsanta.org -- the site features fun
holiday games and activities that change daily. (Photo by Brooke Davis)

Two members of the Northeast Air Defense Sector prepare to track Santa using their high-tech radar equipment. Staff Sgt. Deborah Martin and Staff Sgt. Corey Reynolds make sure the high-tech radars that scan the sky above the eastern United States and Canada are ready to go for St. Nick's annual ride and the NORAD track Santa Program. NEADS is part of the North American Aerospace Defense Command, which is the bi-national U.S.-Canadian military organization responsible for the aerospace and maritime defense of the United States and Canada. Each year, NORAD tracks Santa, and you can too by checking out the Web site www.noradsanta.org -- the site features fun holiday games and activities that change daily. (Photo by Brooke Davis)

ROME, New York -- Members from the Northeast Air Defense Sector, a New York Air National Guard unit, will track Santa Claus to provide him safe passage over the eastern U.S. and Canada this Christmas Eve.

With the North American Air Defense Command taking the lead, NEADS will help NORAD during the holidays while they track Santa and his sleigh in the eastern part of the U.S. using sophisticated radar systems. NEADS personnel will work diligently through the night on Christmas Eve to maintain ongoing contact with Santa as he travels across the states.

"This Santa-tracking tradition as been in existence for years and we take great pride in being able to continue the tradition," said Col. Clark Speicher, NEADS commander. "We feel it is an important part of our homeland defense mission to ensure that Santa is able to fulfill his important mission of delivering toys and NEADS is prepared to help ensure he delivers toys safely."

To ensure Santa is safe and on schedule, the Air National Guard will ensure that their alert fighter aircraft, controlled by NEADS, are prepared to fly and help Santa at a moment's notice, if needed. And in case of poor flying weather, NEADS will provide jolly Saint Nick navigation and guidance.

Families can watch Santa's progress around the World on Dec. 24 by signing onto the Norad Tracks Santa Website at www.noradsanta.org.

The NORAD Tracks Santa program got it's start in 1955 when the Air Force's Continential Air Defense in Colorado Springs was responsible only for protecting the airspace above the United States. A local department store advertised a hotline for the kids to use to call Santa Clause. But the number was misprinted. Instead it was the number for the Continental Air Defense Director of Operations Col. Harry Shoup.

A six-year old boy called Shoup's number and recited his Christmas list. Then more calls began coming in. Shoup instructed his staff to update each child caller on Santa's location as he flew around the world.

A tradition was born and when NORAD was formed by Canada and the United States in 1958 the tradition was continued.

For years the Santa tracking employed a toll-free phone number that was answered by volunteers from the military and their families. In 1997 the Santa Tracking effort moved to the Internet. Computer users could sign-on and get a map showing Santa's location, as well as view computer-generated graphics that show Saint Nick being escorted into North American airspace by CF-18 fighters, flying past the International Space Station, or cruising above and American aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf.

The current Santa Tracking System employs the Google Earth program, to provide an update of Santa's location at all times. It is frequently televised on local and national news networks as well as the Weather Channel cable network.

NEADS is a New York Air National Guard unit, based at the Griffiss Business and Technology Park in Rome, N.Y., that monitors and defends the North American skies east of the Mississippi.