We’re not talking about mountain lions, hawks, or some other wild animal, we’re talking about NORAD and the Cheyenne Mountain Complex. If you ever drive through Colorado Springs, when you get to the south end of town, past Pikes Peak, you’ll likely notice a large group of antennas on the peaks of the southern-most mountains in the range. That is the only sign that the group of men and women who constantly scan the skies in search of any incoming threats to the United States or Canada reside inside Cheyenne Mountain. The complex is literally inside of the mountain. Built by the Army Corps of Engineers, tunnels were dug into the granite mountain in order to protect the facility from any potential air attack. Today, April 15th, the site is celebrating its 50th anniversary of being fully operational.
NORAD, North American Aerospace Defense, was created at the height of cold war to detect potential nuclear weapons being launched by Russia at the United States. These days, their work is somewhat more difficult as they monitor for potential aircrafts that might be in the control of terrorists and not following predetermined flight paths, ready to scramble jets at a minutes notice. Today the facility also houses US Northern Command, USNORTHCOM, but most of the daily operations are run from Peterson Air Force Base, located in southern Colorado Springs. Every now and again, when terrorist threats are high, residents of Colorado Springs are reminded of the potential threat to the mostly quiet city as it is home to both NORAD and the Air Force Academy. We don’t have any pictures of the antennas on top of the mountain because, well, frankly it isn’t that interesting, you can imagine what a bunch of tall antennas look like.
NORAD isn’t all seriousness and dread, however. NORAD also sponsors “NORAD tracks Santa” every year on Christmas Eve where children from around the world can call in or go online and find out the current location of Santa Claus as he flies around the world in his sleigh delivering gifts. In fact, for several years, we volunteered and answered phones, letting children know that Santa would be arriving soon and that they needed to go to bed soon. Legend has it that Sears Department Store mistakenly put in the number for NORAD in a local paper and when they started receiving calls, the staff decided to tell the children Santa’s location and the tradition was born. The truth is probably slightly different, but the end result is the same, children are thrilled with the thought that Santa is real and that our elite defense group is keeping their eyes on him, making sure he can safely deliver gifts.
Regardless of your thoughts on the military, the Cheyenne Mountain Complex is truly a unique and interesting piece of history hidden in the hillsides of Colorado Springs. The work that they do on a daily basis to keep us all safe should be complimented and appreciated. We wish them a happy anniversary for providing 50 years of service in the tunnels below the mountain.