By Senior Airman Tiffany DeNault
21st Space Wing Public Affairs
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — The 7th Space Warning Squadron, located at Beale Air Force Base, Calif., held a Santa tracking event at their Upgraded Early Warning Radar site all day Dec. 24 for Airmen and families across the base.
The annual tradition welcomed families to the radar to view the North American Aerospace Defense Command video of Santa Clause showing up on the 7th SWS radar. Ran by 15 active-duty volunteers and the key spouses’ club, this year 360 people participated in the event.
“For over 10 years, the men and women of the 7th Space Warning Squadron have continued the legacy Col. Harry Shoup started on Christmas Eve, 1955,” said Lt. Col. Miguel Cruz, 7th SWS commander. “The event gives us the opportunity to bring joy and happiness to hundreds of Beale AFB children and families; primarily (Exceptional Family Member Program) children and families of deployed personnel.”
Families in the EFMP and deployed family members were given priority to the radar site. There were 11 EFMP and seven families of deployed personnel who participated.
Before the families would see Santa on the radar, the children were given a gift bag with a craft inside; this year it was a reindeer ornament and a Rudolf coloring picture. The gift bag also wouldn’t be complete without Christmas candy. Hot chocolate, cookies and other snacks were also available while the children waited.
Once they got to the site, they watched Santa come into the radar’s view. Once he showed up, a bunch of alarms would go off to signal Santa was flying through their zone. The Missile Warning Center would then patch the children to Santa’s super-secret sleigh phone to talk to him.
“Seeing the reactions of the children when they hear Santa is absolutely priceless, whether they become shy or super excited,” said 1st Lt. Amanda Rebhi, 7th SWS officer in charge of the event.
“My favorite moment was when Santa asked two little boys what they want for Christmas. The first said ‘I want my brother to be happy’ and then the second said, ‘I want my brother to be happy too’ before they both hugged one another,” said Rebhi. “That really drove home the meaning of the holidays and the reason behind such an event…it is all about family.”
Provided with intel from his elves, Santa would also tell the children a gift they would be receiving for Christmas, giving that day a little extra Christmas magic for the children.
“You just have to see the kids’ faces; their eyes go wide open and their jaws drop when they hear Santa,” said Cruz. “My favorite quote of the day came from a boy, about seven years old, telling his younger brother ‘That must be the REAL Santa…he called me by my name and he knew exactly what I wanted for Christmas.’ It doesn’t get better than that.”
The 7th SWS also began a new tradition of holding a holiday food drive benefitting the Beale Airman’s Attic Food Pantry. This year they collected 420 pounds of food from the participants for the pantry.