Members of the U.S. armed forces deployed around the world celebrate Christmas in the photos and videos below.
First up, a wonderful video from PBS NewsHour of service members around the globe singing “The 12 Days of Christmas.” As with most performances of this song, it gets better and better as it goes.
Army Chief of Staff General Mark A. Milley sends a holiday message from Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan with the First Cavalry Division, reminding us just how many U.S. troops are deployed around the world right now. “During this holiday season, I would just ask that all Americans keep all of our soldiers on freedom’s frontier in their thoughts and prayers,” said Gen. Milley.
The Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve team in Erbil donned Santa hats and reindeer horns in the last hour before Christmas while manning their posts.
The team also enjoyed a Christmas USO show that included a performance by Kellie Pickler.
(Photos by U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Robert Frazier)
American Idol finalist Melinda Doolittle traveled to the Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar for the Air Force Central Command Christmas concert.
The 386th Expeditionary Force Support Squadron brought meals to forward-deployed service members in festive holiday containers:
The Defense Logistics Agency reports delivering over 90,000 pounds of turkey, 22,000 pounds of ham, 1,000 gallons of eggnog, and 4,800 pies, among other holiday foods, to service members deployed in Afghanistan, Iraq, Jordan, and Kuwait for Christmas.
Christmas trees were lit at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan, along with caroling, a bonfire, and s’mores. The Grinch was reportedly sighted on the base, despite being unable to pass a military physical, on account of his heart being two sizes too small.
A Christmas Eve candlelight service was held in Kuwait:
Of course, NORAD is tracking Santa’s progress as always. (Fun fact courtesy of NBC News: the traditional Santa tracking operation began in 1955 because a department store ran an advertisement for children to call Santa Claus, but due to a typo, they published the phone number of the Continental Air Defense Command Operations center… specifically, a line that would normally only be used by top Pentagon brass. When Col. Harry Shoup picked up the famed “red phone,” he found himself talking to a little girl who asked, “Are you really Santa Claus?”)
As you can see, tracking Santa is a major operation. The U.S. Army notes that advanced anti-missile radar installations in northern Canada and Alaska can usually pick up Santa’s sleigh when he lifts off, but after that, most of the work is done by satellites with infrared sensors, because “Rudolph’s nose gives off an infrared signature similar to that of a missile launch.”
However, when Mr. and Mrs. Claus visit the Akiachak village in western Alaska, as they have done every year for the past 60 years with the help of the Alaska National Guard, they leave Rudolph home, and use a C-130 Hercules transport plane.
The USO brings Christmas cheer to U.S. troops stationed in Korea:
American troops in Korea also celebrated Christmas with a group of orphans:
The U.S. Marines have their own version of “Twas the Night Before Christmas” that offers a glimpse of how Marines are spending the holiday season around the world:
— III MEF Marines (@IIIMEF) December 24, 2016
The Marines also offer unique renditions of holiday favorites such as “Jingle Bells”…
‘Tis the season. pic.twitter.com/aolWjTcclM
— U.S. Marines (@USMC) December 24, 2016
… and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.”
To all the Marines on duty this weekend, stay frosty. pic.twitter.com/B4joFzxBJK
— U.S. Marines (@USMC) December 23, 2016
U.S. troops were on hand as displaced Iraqi Assyrian Christians returned to the town of Bartella, recently liberated from the Islamic State, for the first Christmas Eve mass in two years. Unfortunately, they held their Mass in a town that has been almost completely reduced to ruins.