An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

HomeNewsroomNewsArticle Display

Article - Article View

21st Space Wing holiday traditions around the world

THULE AIR BASE, Greenland—Volunteers Thule Air Base, Greenland, sort toys for local village children Dec. 6, 2016, as part of Operation Julemand. The 821st Air Base Group at Thule AB is a geographically separated unit from the 21st Space Wing at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo. Starting in 1959, Operation Julemand allowed personnel at Thule AB to give gifts to the children who live in four local Greenlandic villages: Qaanaq, Savissivik, Siorapaluk and Qeqertat. (Courtesy photo)

THULE AIR BASE, Greenland—Volunteers Thule Air Base, Greenland, sort toys for local village children Dec. 6, 2016, as part of Operation Julemand. The 821st Air Base Group at Thule AB is a geographically separated unit from the 21st Space Wing at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo. Starting in 1959, Operation Julemand allowed personnel at Thule AB to give gifts to the children who live in four local Greenlandic villages: Qaanaq, Savissivik, Siorapaluk and Qeqertat. (Courtesy photo)

EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla.—Members from the 20th Space Control Squadron at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., show off some gifts obtained for local children Dec. 5, 2016. Each year the squadron, a geographically separated unit of the 21st Space Wing at Peterson AFB, Colo., takes part in the installation’s Angel Tree program, which gives underprivileged kids toys and clothes during the holidays. (Courtesy photo)

EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla.—Members from the 20th Space Control Squadron at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., show off some gifts obtained for local children Dec. 5, 2016. Each year the squadron, a geographically separated unit of the 21st Space Wing at Peterson AFB, Colo., takes part in the installation’s Angel Tree program, which gives underprivileged kids toys and clothes during the holidays. (Courtesy photo)

CAVALIER AIR FORCE STATION, N.D.—Members from the 10th Space Warning Squadron at Cavalier Air Force Station, N.D., prepare to lead the Santa Parade in the local town of Cavalier, N.D. Nov. 26, 2016. Each year the 10th SWS, a geographically separated unit of the 21st Space Wing at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., participates in the parade with the local townspeople to ring in the holidays. (Courtesy photo)

CAVALIER AIR FORCE STATION, N.D.—Members from the 10th Space Warning Squadron at Cavalier Air Force Station, N.D., prepare to lead the Santa Parade in the local town of Cavalier, N.D. Nov. 26, 2016. Each year the 10th SWS, a geographically separated unit of the 21st Space Wing at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., participates in the parade with the local townspeople to ring in the holidays. (Courtesy photo)

THULE AIR BASE, Greenland—Members with the 821st Air Base Group, a geographically separated unit of the 21st Space Wing at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., along with Danish, Canadian and Greenlandic personnel at Thule Air Base, Greenland, and many outside corporations donate toys, clothes and other personal goods for Operation Julemand, Dec. 6, 2016. Operation Julemand received over $30,000 of personal goods this year making it the most successful holiday season in 57 years. (Courtesy photo)

THULE AIR BASE, Greenland—Members with the 821st Air Base Group, a geographically separated unit of the 21st Space Wing at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., along with Danish, Canadian and Greenlandic personnel at Thule Air Base, Greenland, and many outside corporations donate toys, clothes and other personal goods for Operation Julemand, Dec. 6, 2016. Operation Julemand received over $30,000 of personal goods this year making it the most successful holiday season in 57 years. (Courtesy photo)

THULE AIR BASE, Greenland—Operation Julemand volunteers at Thule Air Base, Greenland, load carts with gifts Dec. 6, 2016, to be transported by helicopter or dogsled to local villages. Every year, personnel from the 821st Air Base Group, a geographically separated unit of the 21st Space Wing at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., gather goods at Thule AB to be given to children at Christmas parties in the local villages as part of Operation Julemand. (Courtesy photo)

THULE AIR BASE, Greenland—Operation Julemand volunteers at Thule Air Base, Greenland, load carts with gifts Dec. 6, 2016, to be transported by helicopter or dogsled to local villages. Every year, personnel from the 821st Air Base Group, a geographically separated unit of the 21st Space Wing at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., gather goods at Thule AB to be given to children at Christmas parties in the local villages as part of Operation Julemand. (Courtesy photo)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- The 21st Space Wing is located at more than just Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado. In fact, the wing spans over eight different countries. Its unique mission of providing missile warning and space control around the world creates a need for multiple locations. Because of this, the wing has close to 4,500 personnel around the world.

When the holidays roll around, it is good to be reminded of our service members around the world. Due to their unique locations, sometimes even away from family, their holiday festivities take on a special meaning.

Peterson’s geographically separated units each have different holiday traditions taking place as they continue to monitor the skies. From delivering toys to marching proudly, each unit has its own traditions to celebrate the holidays.


Cold temps, but warm-hearted people
Thule Air Base, Greenland


Almost 700 miles north of the Arctic Circle on the island of Greenland lies Thule Air Base. “Thule” in Latin means “northernmost part of the habitable world.” The 821st Air Base Group from the 21st SW provides host base support to Thule AB. It houses around 600 personnel from Denmark, Canada, Greenland and the U.S.

Every year the chapel at Thule hosts Operation Julemand for the holidays. Julemand, or “Christmas man” in Danish, is a project which involves collecting personal goods, to include toys, for the local Inuit children. The program was started in 1959 by a group of Airmen and has since grown to a multinational operation at Thule.

The operation begins in the summer months and is a testament to the international cooperation between the different nations represented at Thule.

“The Danish people here have been amazing,” said Capt. Michael Farar, the 821st ABG installation chaplain at Thule. “They will jump into everything and their support has been top-notch.”

Everything begins with the Danish Liaison Officer, who is the go-between for those on the installation and the local communities of Greenland. Each year, the DLO talks with the villages and gathers names and wishes from the local children. From here, the information is given to the all-volunteer team for Operation Julemand, so base personnel can choose a child to buy a gift for. Since Thule is a remote location, most personnel have to order their gifts online early to be shipped to the base.

According to Farar, this year was the most successful year in the program’s history. Over $30,500 in personal goods were donated from local personnel and outside organizations. This included toys for the children and the cost of airfare for transporting goods and people.

One week before Christmas, some members fly out to Qaanaaq, one of the benefiting villages of Operation Julemand, by helicopter to personally deliver the gifts and take part in a holiday party with the locals, which includes singing traditional Danish, Greenlandic and American carols together.

“There are food, games and the giving of gifts from the Julemand, or, as we know him, Santa Claus,” said Farar. “The people from the four northernmost inhabited villages in the world come together to celebrate.”

Back at Thule, the base hosts a Catholic priest from the Pentagon and a Greenlandic Lutheran priest to provide Christmas services to round out the holiday. Services are delivered in both English and Greenlandic to accommodate the Greenlandic people working at Thule.

Farar summed up the holiday tradition at the Air Force’s northernmost base.

“Operation Julemand is Thule’s way of giving holiday cheer to the kids at the top of the world.”


Joining in on the parade
Cavalier Air Force Station, North Dakota


In a remote part of eastern North Dakota, just 15 miles south of the Canadian border, the 10th Space Warning Squadron at Cavalier Air Force Station, mans the world’s most capable phased-array radar system known as the Perimeter Acquisition Radar Attack Characterization System. Cavalier AFS is just outside the small town of Cavalier, which only has a population of 1,300 people.

During the holidays, the squadron joins the town to march in the Cavalier Santa Parade, where the streets, buildings and trees are decorated with Christmas lights. This year, the 10th SWS Spartans got to lead the parade to ring in the holidays.

Later on, all the members of the 10th SWS and their families get together for a holiday potluck in the PARCS radar building, which is the most prominent building on Cavalier AFS, standing at 121 feet high.

Remembering the children
Cape Cod Air Force Station, Massachusetts


On the furthest eastern peninsula of Massachusetts, Cape Cod Air Force Station shares ground with the U.S. Coast Guard, the Massachusetts National Guard and the Army Reserves at Joint Base Cape Cod. Cape Cod AFS mans the only Ballistic Missile Early Warning System radar for the eastern U.S. and southern Canada.

During the holidays, members of the 6th Space Warning Squadron, along with other members of Joint Base Cape Cod, partner with the Cape Cod Military Support Foundation and Otis Civilian Advisory Council to carry out its holiday traditions.

“The Cape Cod Military Support Foundation and Otis Civilian Advisory Council are two local organizations that do an incredible job supporting our military members and their families throughout the year and during the holiday season,” said Lt. Col. Nathan Hippe, commander of the 6th SWS. “We definitely appreciate all of their efforts and support.”

One holiday tradition at Joint Base Cape Cod involves providing toys for all of the installation’s children. Donations are received from local and national organizations throughout the year.

After suffering a fire that destroyed all of the donated toys on Oct. 28, many people and organizations stepped up to completely replace the lost items. With the generosity of members and outside organizations, Joint Base Cape Cod was able to hold its annual children’s Christmas party this year.

In addition to providing toys for the local military kids, the 6th SWS also hosts a party for its own children. The annual children’s holiday party allows for children to do holiday-themed arts and crafts, watch The Polar Express, and meet with Santa.

On Christmas Day, members and their families from the 6th SWS get together to cook holiday meals for the Airmen who have to work Christmas day. In all, around 30 plates of food and desserts are prepared and served.

It’s about the community
20th Space Control Squadron—Eglin Air Force Base, Florida
20th SPCS, Detachment 1—Socorro, New Mexico
20th SPCS, Detachment 2—Diego Garcia, British Indian Ocean Territory
20th SPCS, Detachment 3—Maui, Hawaii

The 20th Space Control Squadron operates out of Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. It tracks more than 16,000 near-earth and deep-space objects around the clock with its AN/FPS-85 Phased Array Radar, which is the only phased array radar dedicated to tracking space objects.

Members of the 20th SPCS at Eglin participate in a few different holiday traditions. First, they take part in the local Angel Tree program. The specific program at Eglin AFB has members buy one toy and one clothing gift for local disadvantaged children. This is run in conjunction with the Walton County Sheriff’s Office annual “Santa Patrol” project, which delivers toys, clothing, school supplies and other donations for children in underprivileged homes.

Another tradition is the radar site-wide door decorating contest. Units and offices are encouraged to decorate their doors using wrapping paper, lights, presents and anything else they can come up with to compete for prizes.

An additional program members from the 20th SPCS partake in is called “United for a Good Cause,” a local non-profit organization. The unit has participated in this program for the last 12 years. Members are given the opportunity to dress as Santa and other holiday characters to visit with children around the local community.

The 20th SPCS also has three detachments that place its personnel around the world. They are in New Mexico, Hawaii and Diego Garcia. These locations usually participate in site-wide holiday dinners with their units. To make the holiday extra special, Maj. Damien Ochs, an operations officer with the 20th SPCS, said Detachment 3 in Maui has one wish.

“They are hoping for snow this year so they can build a snowman.”

Peterson SFB Schriever SFBCheyenne Mountain SFSThule AB New Boston SFS Kaena Point SFS Maui