Holidays in a remote location: taking care of Airmen


Celebrating holidays in a remote location is a unique experience. Thule Air Base, Greenland is 750 miles above the Arctic Circle with exceptional geographical, environmental, logistical and personal challenges. Many service members have come and gone since 1951, and more will come and go after us. At the 821st Air Base Group, we are overcoming these challenges through extraordinary teamwork and a can-do attitude.


One definition of holiday is a day of festivity or recreation set aside by custom or by law when no work is done. Holidays are usually celebrated in the company of loved ones, family, friends and colleagues. In the U.S., more emphasis is given to major holidays such as Thanksgiving or Christmas, where an office celebration is given special time, attention and energy. Whereas in a remote location like Thule, each and every holiday, whether a national or foreign holiday, a 12 mile ruck march carrying 35 pounds to remember 9/11 victims, or a polar plunge – each has a special meaning and is given equal attention and energy. It gives us a reason to show our camaraderie, share our talents, spread laughter and cheer, and be there for each other in absence of our loved ones, families and friends.


Decorating or cooking special meals for some of the holidays is especially challenging due to logistics here. You cannot get supplies at the nearest party store. In fact, the nearest town is over 100 km away. There is only one weekly flight from the mainland, so even though you can shop online, it may take a couple of weeks or more to get your packages and you have limited choices on fresh groceries. These limitations provide us the opportunity to be more creative, such as using kangaroo meat sold in the deli, or creating our own decorations. 


Nevertheless, Team Thule celebrates holidays together. All of the 821 ABG community events and holiday activities are open to our coalition partners --Canada, Denmark, and Greenland, the scientific community, and other colleagues, including local Greenlanders. For instance, every year 821 ABG proudly sponsors Operation Julemand, meaning Santa Claus in Danish, specifically focused on the local community. Started in 1959, supported entirely by Thule Air Base donations, it provides outreach to multiple Greenlandic villages, hundreds of children and other residents.


Despite such unique circumstances, the 821 ABG Arctic Raiders, the 12th Space Warning Squadron Archies, and the 23rd Space Operations Squadron Detachment 1 Polar Bears are not just taking care of Airmen but all base members ensuring that even if we cannot be with our regular families during holidays, we can celebrate them with our Team Thule family.