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Semper Santa

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Caycee Watson
  • 169th Fighter Wing

MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, S.C. -- The South Carolina Air National Guard is home of multi-capable, combat-ready Swamp Fox Airmen, a fleet of tactical F-16 Fighting Falcon jets, and it’s very own…Santa.

DeWayne Corbitt is the 169th Fighter Wing drug demand reduction program manager, responsible for education, prevention, and administering all random and command-directed drug testing.

When he’s not busy ensuring the SCANG is armed with fully capable Airmen, you may see him wearing his other hat, Santa’s hat.

Corbitt never expected Santa to be part of his identity. During the pandemic, he let his beard grow, and when his granddaughter spontaneously called him Papa Santa, the inevitable was put in motion. He eventually attended Northern Lights Santa Academy and joined the International Brotherhood of Real Bearded Santas.

Corbitt is an Army veteran and a youth baseball umpire, widely known in that community as Umpire Santa. Here, he becomes Swamp Fox Santa as he steps out of his DDRP office and dons the famous red and white suit for the unit’s annual Winterfest activity during December drill weekend.

“It’s an enjoyable thing for me to be here and a part of the military family and giving back because I grew up as a military child, so I know what it’s like to have mom and dad gone through the holidays,” said Corbitt. “And that’s what we’re kind of going through right now with some of the Airmen deployed, so it lets me give back.”

Each year the SCANG anticipates Santa’s arrival, usually in the back seat of an F-16 after he’s been “picked up from the North Pole” to bring a little extra holiday joy to Swamp Fox Airmen and their families.

Prior to joining the SCANG as a civilian, Corbitt was in the Army as an infantryman and paratrooper with numerous deployments and was medically retired with 17 years of service in 2015. He began working at the wing in 2021.

“At the time, I didn’t want to get back into the military world, but now I’m very happy that I have because I found what I was missing,” said Corbitt. “And that’s family, you know, and being a part of something greater than yourself.”

The DDRP position often comes with some negativity, which Corbitt views as a necessary part of the job to protect the safety of the Airmen, the aircraft, and the community. That makes his time as Santa even more special at the end of the year.

“When I retired in 2015, I was lost. I truly was,” said Corbitt. “But I think being Santa has taken me out of being that stern infantry Soldier for so many years to having that weight lifted.”

Corbitt enjoys being able to see a child smile. He often takes the Santa role at the local zoo, and he visits the hospitals a few times each year to deliver presents and bring a moment of happiness to children battling illnesses. He says being Santa has made a tremendous impact on him.

“I don’t live the life all the time, but I look the part,” said Corbitt. “I have a baseball jersey that has the number 25 and Santa written across the back, so I hide it in plain sight.”

It’s not uncommon for Corbitt to be in public as himself and get called-out as Santa. “If a kid notices me, I’ll jump into character and go with it,” he said.

He stays prepared with apps that allow him to check if a child has been naughty or nice. If he notices a child being good, he will hand them a card that states they’ve been caught being good and they’re now on the nice list, signed by Santa.

“It’s an honor to be the Swamp Fox’s Santa. Doing various things out here to make it better. Its what’s truly inspiring.”

Whether it’s the DDRP hat, an umpire hat, his veteran hat, or Santa’s hat, Corbitt remains committed to serving his community and the SCANG.

“I’ve looked at the history of the wing, and it’s remarkable, you know, some of the things that the wing has been involved in. I’m happy to say I work for the Swamp Fox,” he said.