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All around the world, this is the day children try to stay up as late as they can, hoping to catch a glimpse of Santa Claus as he makes his way to their house.
Did you know that thanks to the Federal government’s North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), youngsters can figure out just when to turn their eyes skyward? NORAD’s Santa Tracker will let them know when Santa and his sleigh are approaching. While they are waiting, Santa watchers can also call the Santa hotline – 877-HI-NORAD – to make any last-minute gift requests. Those that are too shy to call the big guy can send a note to his personal email address.
I’d like to share with you the interesting story behind NORAD’s Santa Tracker. This Santa watch started with a simple misprint in a Sears Department Store ad and a kind-hearted member of the military.
In 1955, Col. Harry Shoup was stationed at the Continental Air Defense Command. The office, which is now NORAD, had two phones – a regular line and one of the top-secret red phones that rings at times of national emergency.
One night Col. Shoup’s red phone rang. The colonel answered it, and heard a child at the other end asking for Santa. At first Shoup was angry, thinking it was a prank. But the child’s mother explained that the obviously wrong number was printed in a Sears ad that encouraged children to call Santa and ask for their gifts.
The colonel decided to have a little fun. He put together a team to answer the inevitable calls that started to flood in as a result of the ad. Eventually, he came up with the idea of calling radio stations and alerting DJs to the location of Santa’s sleigh. The stations would then call in regularly for updates. Shoup became known as Col. Santa, and the tradition carried on, year after year. Thanks to a recent story on National Public Radio and interviews with the late colonel’s grown children, we have the details of this endearing story.
Today, NORAD continues to track Santa and his reindeer. Volunteers man the hotline – though it is no longer a top-secret number – and update the world on Santa’s progress through Christmas Eve. It just goes to show that Federal employees – both military and civilian – have some of the coolest jobs. It also shows how a little innovation and imagination can go a long way.
The Department of Defense’s Press Secretary, Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby, says that “every indication is that Santa Claus will arrive on time this year to deliver presents to the world’s estimated 1.9 billion children” and that NORAD is “tuning up the Santa-tracking system” this year. NoradSanta.org now shows the countdown until Santa takes to the skies. Kirby also assures us that the anti-Grinch firewall is up and monitoring for threats and that NORAD has verified the load-bearing capacity of all rooftops. Their infrared detecting satellites are even calibrated to see Rudolph’s nose. That’s what I call cutting-edge technology.
Join us in tracking Santa this year. And I hope that you and your loved ones have a safe, happy, and restful holiday season.
As we celebrate the holidays this week, I want to take a moment to thank all OPM employees for their hard work and dedication to serving the Federal workforce, Federal annuitants, and their families all across this great country and the world.
What the workforce at OPM does every day means so much to so many people, and I didn’t want this season of caring and hope to go by without saying how much I appreciate all of their efforts. In addition, I am so grateful for the warm welcome everyone at the agency has given me as we begin this journey at OPM together.
For many, this will be a time to celebrate with loved ones both near and far. Children away at school will find their way home. The hustle and bustle of our busy lives will be put aside for a few days as we treasure the time away from the daily pressures of the important work of serving the nation.
Some will be on duty for the American people during this holiday season. Many Federal workers who maintain the safety of our airports, stand guard over Federal facilities, tend to our wounded warriors and perform so many other vital Government functions will remain vigilant during this holiday time. To them and everyone who makes up this world-class workforce, I thank you for your continued service.
I wish you and yours a Happy Holiday!
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