Operation Santa--Tradition preserved by Wing members

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Paul Zadach
  • 934th Airlift Wing
For more than a decade, children from Eau Claire, Wis. have been treated to a special trip, flying to the "North Pole" to meet Santa, Mrs. Claus and the elves during the 934th Airlift Wing's "Operation Santa." But this year, that tradition almost came to an end.
Master Sgt. Jim Courneya, 96th Airlift Squadron, had participated in many Operation Santa missions throughout the years courtesy of the 96th AS and the AT&T Telephone Pioneers in Wisconsin where they 'flew' special needs children and their brothers and sisters to Santa's home.

Earlier this year, Sergeant Courneya started making some phone calls to Gloria Grabowski, an AT&T employee and Telephone Pioneer member who was the chief organizer for the previous events. However, he found that she had been laid off from her job and no longer lived in Wisconsin. He perservered and was able to track her down in Texas.

When he finally got in touch with her in early November, she said, "Jim, I used to start organizing the event in August, and since I lost my job and moved away, I haven't put anything together. I just don't think there is any way we can have the event this year."
"We have people here at the 934th who can put this together, there is still time to get it going," said Sergeant Courneya.

Grabowski responded, "You really want this to happen don't you?"

"Yes," said Sergeant Courneya, and he enlisted the help of some Airmen Elves to make it happen.

934th members were quick to donate gifts, wrap presents, obtain necessary approvals and put Operation Santa together in less than a month to continue the tradition. Grabowski and her husband returned to Wisconsin to once again join 934th members in the Operation Santa mission.

Santa never quits, and neither does the 934th Airlift Wing.