NORAD Tracks Santa Program – keeping Santa safe since 1955

Santa Claus delivers billions of gifts to children around the world every year. To keep him safe, a small group of US and Canadian soldiers keep track of him and his reindeers.

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Lt. Col. Apollo Edmilao NORAD Tracks Santa
Lt. Col. Apollo Edmilao is the commanding officer of the Canadian military at NORAD (and also, the guy in charge of the NORAD Tracks Santa Program).

The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) has been tracking Santa since 1955. The soldier in charge of Code Name: Big Red? A Filipino soldier from Langley, British Columbia. Read more about the NORAD Tracks Santa Program.

Little girl calls wrong number, starts a yearly tradition

It all started when a little girl accidentally dialed a wrong number, which turned out to be the number for the Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) Operations Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

The little girl was looking for Santa after seeing an ad in a local paper.

The soldier who answered the phone, Colonel Harry Shoup assured his young caller that he would make sure that Santa would be safe on his journey from the North Pole.

CONAD carried on the tradition, even after the Canadians joined in on the fun in 1958 to form NORAD.

Today, the NORAD Tracks Santa Program is the US Department of Defense’s largest community outreach programs, fielding more than 130,000 calls from children around the world.

The NORAD Tracks Santa Program is also available on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram.

Lt. Col. Edmilao celebrating Christmas with his sisters. Via @LangleyAdvanceTimes

The Filipino soldier in charge of Code Name: Big Red

Lt. Col. Apollo Edmilao immigrated to Canada from the Philippines when he was just five years old. His family landed in Langley, BC, where his parents still live.

He is married to Tracy Walton, with whom he has two daughters, Nicolle and Emma.

Edmilao has spent more than 33 years serving in the Canadian military. All those years spent as a soldier hasn’t nearly prepared Edmilao for his biggest challenge yet: keeping track of Santa Claus during his Christmas journey.

Edmilao is the commanding officer of the Canadian military at NORAD. Raised in Langley, VA, Edmilao is part of an international operation composed of military and civilian personnel.

He’s been with NORAD since 2019, and always enjoys taking part in the yearly tradition.

“The calls from the kids are non-stop, filled with innocent wonder and amazement that someone is actually telling them where Santa is,” Edmilao told Trail Times.

Edmilao admits that it can get pretty busy, but that the experience is well worth it.

“It was extremely hectic, but an incredibly fun and rewarding experience. There are so many volunteers that your shift is short and goes by so fast. On a normal year, you are in one of several rooms filled with 50 or so other people answering phone calls from kids and their parents updating them on where Santa currently is. To help, there is a big screen at the front of the room that shows the radar tracking of Santa. The mood is festive as everyone fields calls from kids and parents asking where Santa is,” Edmilao shared with Trail Times.

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has placed restrictions on the number of people answering the phones this year, but Edmilao is confident that the volunteers available will be more than up to the task.

“I can honestly say that I was extremely grateful and honoured to be a part of such a great tradition,” Edmilao told the Trail Times. “Being involved in answering calls from all over the world telling kids and parents where Santa currently is really restores some of the magic of Christmas for even us grownups.”

You can see exactly where Santa is and just how many gifts he’s already delivered in the days leading up to Christmas.

NORAD Santa Tracker

You can see where Santa is right now at the official website here.

The phone lines start taking calls on December 24 at 6:00am Eastern. Children can call 1 (877) 446-6723 (that’s 1 (877) HI- NORAD) to check on Santa’s progress.

You can check on Santa’s progress at the official NORAD Tracks Santa website at www.noradsanta.org. It’s available in French, Spanish, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Mandarin and English.

SOURCE: Trail Times


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