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Laughlin’s unexpected visit from Santa spreads holiday cheer, enhances pilot training

Pilots, returning from a flight, greet Santa Claus on the flightline at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas, Dec. 17, 2019. As part of an ongoing cooperation between Laughlin and the North Pole, Col. Lee Gentile, 47th Flying Training Wing commander, met with Santa to enhance the base’s Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training program by providing student pilots an opportunity of a lifetime—delivering presents all across the United States. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Anne McCready)

Santa Claus assists a maintainer at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas, Dec. 17, 2019. Before returning to the North Pole, Santa was able to see many base facilities, talk with some Airmen about what they wanted for Christmas, and share in performing some of their day-to-day duties. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Anne McCready)

Student pilots at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas, render a salute to Santa Claus, Dec. 17, 2019. Before returning to the North Pole, Santa was able to see many base facilities, talk with some Airmen about what they wanted for Christmas, and share in performing some of their day-to-day duties. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Anne McCready)

LAUGHLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Texas --

Santa Claus, supreme allied commander of the North Pole, arrived at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas, Dec. 17, 2019.

As part of an ongoing cooperation between Laughlin and the North Pole, the meeting seeks to enhance the base’s Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training program by providing student pilots an opportunity of a lifetime—delivering presents all across the United States.

“When Colonel Gentile asked me if I needed help delivering presents this year, it was hard to say no,” said Santa. “This year we’re experiencing a shortage of available reindeer, so we had to lean on the U.S. Air Force for help. My reindeer are great, but they’re nothing compared to a twinjet, supersonic aircraft like the T-38 Talon!”

This once in a lifetime opportunity, designed through mutual collaboration, extends the SUPT program by a single day to 261 days, and provides student pilots more flying hours before graduation.

“The Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training program is a rigorous course designed to graduate the world’s best, combat-ready military aviators,” said Col. Lee Gentile. “We’re really excited to see what our student pilots do in the North Pole, and we really hope they pack warm clothes. I can imagine how intense their assignment will be.”

Before returning to the North Pole, Santa was able to see many base facilities, talk with some Airmen about what they wanted for Christmas, and share in performing some of their day-to-day duties.

Along with the delivery and training program, Laughlin and the North Pole are hoping to add Santa’s Assistant Sleigh pilot to the available assignment roster at drop night for student pilots by 2023.