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Christmas at DEFCON 2

December 23, 2011
By Wes Burns , Times-Republican

31 days have passed since I last wrote about the premature encroachment of Christmas into an otherwise normal November. And after all the decorations, tinsel, garish house lights, egg nog, Christmas TV specials, ironic counter culture Anti-Christmas TV specials, Christmas themed political ads, more nog, shopping, crowds and Charlie Brown I?feel I?can say I'm just about ready for Christmas time.

But this is America, and when we want to do something we have to do it big. Real big. And who do we turn to when we need to do something big? The military.

Sure, we have good natured Marines buying tots toys, soldiers around the world sharing good will/MREs with locals, and the Salvation Army collecting money for the needy.

I don't think those guys are really in the military, but I?choose never to mess with a well organized group of people immune to the effects of cold weather.

I'm sure I'm forgetting even more great charitable programs within our armed forces; but those programs help out real people with real Christmas.

I'm talking about the guys who like to play it loud, whether we're talking about Christmas time or space lasers. And this is the time of year were these two forces come together: Santa Claus and NORAD.

Santa Tracker 2011 is a go! REPEAT: Santa Tracker 2011 is a go!

NORAD, or North American Aerospace Defense Command, has an actual telephone number (877-HI NORAD) that kids and drunk people can call to check the current position of Santa. Somewhere in a military base so important to national security it was built into a mountain sits a (wo)man by a telephone, updating curious children about the current location of jolly old Saint Nick.

How, might you ask, did the most powerful satellite control center in the world find itself in the position to be Santa's GPS?

In 1955 a newspaper in Colorado Springs thought it would be a good idea to run an ad inviting kids to call Santa on a hotline.

While I'm sure the intention was to have the kids listen to a prerecorded message about how Santa wants their parents to renew their subscription someone made a typo and they printed the wrong number.

In what was clearly the inspiration for "War Games" that one wrong number took a hotline designed to increase circulation and turned it into the number for the offices of CADC, NORAD's predecessor. So thanks to careless copyediting thousands of people were able to call directly into Continental Aerospace Defense Command ... and ask about Santa.

Now NORADD has gone hi-tech with their Santa tracking. Facebook pages, Santa tracking apps for the iPhone AND Android, and the ubiquitous Twitter feed.

So in this age of cost cutting and perpetual debt we have social networking apps running on cutting edge smart phones using satellite technology and a multibillion dollar command center so kids can keep a little Santa magic alive in the modern world?

Now its feels like Christmas time.


Copy Editor Wes Burns is a Friday columnist. The views expressed in this column are personal views of the writer and don't necessarily reflect the views of the T-R. Contact Wes Burns at 641-753-6611 or



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