- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The North American Aerospace Defense Command’s popular Track Santa program is back for 2013, but the news that St. Nick will be getting fighter jet escorts isn’t going over well with everyone, with some child advocates speaking out against the move, the Boston Globe reported.

“Children associate Santa with gifts and fun and everything else that is positive about Christmas,” said Allen Kanner, a California child and family psychologist and co-founder of the Boston-based Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood. “They are associating this with the military in children’s minds. It is completely out of line,” he told The Globe.

In 2012, 22 million people were able to get “real-time” updates on Santa Claus’ trip around the globe. Millions of families watched Santa and his reindeer accomplish their mission, but this year the U.S. Air Force will be giving him support.

Adding the jets is “part of our effort to give the program more of an operational feel,” Navy Capt. Jeff A. Davis, a spokesman for NORAD, told The Globe. “It’s still cutesy since it’s for kids, but we don’t want people to lose sight of our true mission,” Capt. Davis said.

The fighter jets reportedly will protect Santa when he goes over restricted airspace around the globe. If NORAD can duplicate or improve upon last year’s statistics, that will mean at least 1.2 million mobile users and 114,000 people who call in will have a better idea of NORAD’s mission.

“I think people are quite aware of the military’s true mission,” said Amy Hagopian, a professor of public health at the University of Washington who has written extensively about military recruiting of youngsters. “If the military wants to keep its ranks stocked, it needs to appeal to children. The military knows it can’t appeal to adults to volunteer. It is like the ad industry,” she told The Globe.

SEE ALSO: ‘Tis the season: Mass. mall Santa charged with groping elf

The full experience for the Track Santa program, which includes games, music and movies, can be viewed at https://www.noradsanta.org/

• Douglas Ernst can be reached at dernst@washingtontimes.com.

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