PORTLAND, Ore. - The Oregon Air National Guard will be on high alert again this Christmas Eve as they work closely with the United States Air Force and the North American Air Defense Command (NORAD) to monitor the skies and track the annual flight of Santa Claus.
"Year after year, on Christmas Eve, we receive reports from the Western Air Defense Sector at McChord Air Force Base (Wash) of high-speed radar returns from their defense network radar systems," said Major Melinda Lepore, an Oregon Air National Guard spokesperson.
"Because our F-15 aircrews are on continuous alert, they may be ordered airborne to intercept and investigate anything that can't be positively identified on radar. "
According to Col Rick Wedan, the 142d Fighter Wing Commander, "it is not uncommon to get airborne, and find that it's only Saint Nick sleighing the skies during the Holiday Season. He's used to seeing us, and in fact the reindeer have become quite accustomed to flying formation with our F-15s!"
For more than 65 years, the Air National Guard's mission in Portland has been to provide Air Defense of the Pacific Northwest -- 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Members are also prepared to respond to state and local emergency contingencies.
More than 2,200 Oregon Air National Guard members voluntarily serve full-time and part-time in support of these missions in both Portland, Klamath Falls, and Warrenton.