With just a few days until children gather by the window to listen for Santa’s sleigh, personnel at McEntire Joint National Guard Base stand ready.
The base’s Aerospace Control Alert mission – comprising the airmen and F-16s that make up the 169th Fighter Wing – is part of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) that jumps into action should an airborne threat arise.
Next week, NORAD is expected to delight more than 22 million children by helping kids follow Santa’s journey across the globe.
“We’re all big fans of Santa,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Keith “Dolph“ Miller, commander at the Richland County base near Eastover.
“Santa is a pilot, too, and therefore a kindred spirit. We are thankful to be part of NORAD’s watchful eyes this Christmas and take special pride in knowing that we play a part in his safe passage throughout the Southeast.”
A children’s advocacy group says an animated video on the NORAD Tracks Santa website injects militarism into Christmas by showing fighter jets escorting Santa’s sleigh. It’s a rare swipe at the popular program, which last year attracted a record 22.3 million. The Boston-based Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood said the video brings violence and militarism to a beloved tradition.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.