Stories say that it was a mis-dialed call in the mid 1950s that led organizers to begin what is now the Santa Tracker, a bi-national program that runs each Christmas and now employs fighter pilots, several different air force bases and staff, and over 1500 volunteers! In 2014 there were over a hundred thousand phone calls and almost 20 million visits to the NORAD Santa Tracker website!¹
Luckily for me, I know someone important in the know down there at NORAD!
Major Jennifer Stadnyk happens to be the poor soul I message with Public Affairs questions every once and a while and, because she’s just an all-around good person, she helps me out.
Much more importantly, Major Stadnyk has the pretty incredible job of being a Public Affairs Officer for Santa Clause at the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) in Colorado Springs.
How is that not the coolest job ever?
In 2013 I interviewed Major Stadnyk about the Track Santa program and thankfully again this year she was able to take a moment during Santa’s busiest season to answer a few updated questions for us to let us know more about how
we can our kids can track Santa in 2016!
1. I think being a Public Affairs Officer for Santa is possibly the coolest job in the CAF! How did you find yourself with this job?
I also think it’s pretty cool! I found myself working in the CFB Kingston public affairs office during the ice storm of 1998 and really fell in love with the importance of communicating what the Canadian Armed Forces was doing to support the local community, I knew that’s where I needed to be! Being a PAO allows me to catch a glimpse of all aspects of the military and help share that with the Canadian public! Being one of Santa’s PAOs is the icing on the cake! He is a very busy man and we consider it a no-fail mission to keep the public up-to-date on his travels!
2. Every year NORAD picks fighter pilots to escort Santa. Can you tell us more about what their job is and how they are chosen?
We consider the NORAD escort pilot job a sacred duty. Only a privileged few get the coveted duty of escorting St. Nick on December 24th. They are pilots who have demonstrated the right combination of the holiday spirit and cheer. Two pilots from Bagotville, Quebec meet Santa as he arrives off the east coast of Newfoundland and keep him company as he travels west. Somewhere in central Canada, they pass the duty off to two pilots from Cold Lake, Alberta who continue the very important mission across the rest of the country!
Starting the night in 2016 will be Santa’s escort pilots from 3 Wing Bagotville, Quebec: Captain Sébastien Tremblay-Verreault and Captain Frédéric Létourneau. Supporting them are CF-188 Hornet crew chiefs Master Corporal Scott Rose, and Corporal Steeven Cantin. (Photo: http://www.newsline360.com/noradsanta/article_view/392?)
Those pilots will then pass off their duty to a team from 4 Wing Cold Lake, Alberta. This team is made up of pilots Lieutenant-Colonel William Radiff, and Major Denis Bandet, and the CF-188 Hornet crew chiefs Master Corporal Joshua Correia, and Corporal Kurt Attwood. (Photos: http://www.newsline360.com/noradsanta/article_view/392?)
21 Aerospace Control and Warning Squadron’s Delta Flight, 22 Wing North Bay, Ontario, is home to Santa Tracker team members Captain Jim Mersereau, mission crew commander, United States Air Force (USAF) Lieutenant-Colonel Michael Harmon, commander, 2 Detachment, First Air Force, and Master Corporal Christian Turcotte, identification supervisor. (Photo: http://www.newsline360.com/noradsanta/article_view/392?)
This year’s mission has been dedicated to the memory of Captain Thomas McQueen, who escorted Santa in 2014.
3. What does it look like at the NORAD base there on Christmas Eve? Who are the volunteers and what do they do?
The atmosphere is amazing! The operations center is full of volunteers, the phones are ringing off the hook and there is Christmas music and lots of food and drink! There are more than 1500 military and civilian volunteers from the Colorado Springs area who donate their personal time on December 24th to talk to children from around the world and tell them where Santa is. It is truly a special event!
4. What’s your favourite new feature to the Track Santa website this year?
Well, there are some fun new games this year and we brought back some favourites, but I’d have to say my favourite part of the website is exploring the North Pole and the music library! Also, trackers with On Star in their vehicles can press the On Star button for updates on Santa’s location and if they have a Windows phone, they can ask Cortana where Santa is!
5. What’s the best part about being a Canadian posted to Colorado?
The best part about being a Canadian in Colorado (aside from having the majestic mountains at your doorstep) is working in the bi-national environment that is NORAD. Here, the American and Canadian military works side by side to ensure that our continent is kept safe from any potential threats. There is no other military collaboration like NORAD anywhere else in the world!
6. What did you ask Santa for this year?
I told Santa I didn’t need anything this year as long as my family and friends could be happy and healthy!
There are many ways to track Santa with us on Christmas Eve!
Visit us on the Web: www.noradsanta.org
Call us! 1-877-HI NORAD
Send us an email! firstname.lastname@example.org
Find us on social media: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+ and YouTube
There you have it! Grab your kids/grandkids/nieces/nephews/don’t even pretend and do it yourself, and check out the NORAD Santa Tracker this week and all the way up to the 25th!