Tracking Santa Claus with the 173rd Fighter Wing

Klamath Falls, Ore. – Crews with the 173rd Fighter Wing are on special assignment Christmas Eve, tracking a special flight.

Members of ‘Special Ops’ are spending their Christmas Even deep in an underground bunker, tracking Santa Claus.

Staff Sergeant Megan Alaniz has now been tracking Santa for the past five years. “And I keep volunteering because of the excitement it brings me, and the excitement it brings the kids at home.”

F-15 pilots suit up as they prepare to shadow Santa across the skies, as ground crews watch closely on radar screens.

“And if we don’t have our jets up there, to make sure that he’s safe and escorted into the airspace, then we’re not doing our job,” said Major Nikki Jackson.

“I have a brand new baby girl at home, this will be her first Christmas,” added Tech Sergeant Justin Fox. “She won’t understand anything of what’s going on here, but hopefully in years to come she’ll enjoy it.”

The people in charge of tracking Santa are careful not to jeopardize the mission.

Details such as Santa’s flight path, speed, and payload capacity are highly classified.

Lieutenant Colonel Rick Giampietri said, “To be totally honest with you, I wouldn’t want to divulge a lot of that information.”

Major Jackson agreed, “If I were to tell you those things, then I might end up on Santa’s bad boy list.”

Flying with Santa is a special treat, even for the most seasoned pilots.

“Crazy,” said Tech Sergeant David Evinger. “He has all kinds of cool gizmos that he’s got going on in there, and those ‘Ho Ho Ho’s’ you can hear all the way into the cockpit of the F-15.  It’s quite cool.”

Lt. Col. Giampietri adds that pilots and crews also gather intelligence from Santa. “We talk about stealth and things that we execute in the United States Air Force, and a lot of that original technology came from some of his elves, and his advancements.”

Crews from the 173rd made a special flight to the North Pole shortly after Thanksgiving to help coordinate this year’s flight plan with Santa.

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