History of the AOC

With origins in WWII, Electronic Warfare has been, and remains, a critical enabling capability in military operations in peace and war. With the evolution of digital/computer technology, Electronic Warfare (EW), Information Operations (IO), and related disciplines are increasingly necessary to achieve knowledge superiority, strategic and tactical dominance, and asset protection in both offensive and defensive operations. Information Operations include those actions taken to influence, effect, or defend information, information systems, and decision-making. The development of information technology also enables EW and IO systems to cover both the analog and digital domains including the entire acoustic, magnetic, seismic, and electromagnetic spectrum.

The name “Old Crows” emerged from the first large-scale use of Electronic Warfare during the WWII Battle of Britain and the US and allied bombing raids over Europe. The Allied Radar Countermeasure operators used the code name “Ravens” and employed receivers and transmitters to monitor and jam threat frequencies. Military jargon later changed “Ravens” to “Crows.”

Non Videbunt” translates from the Latin to “They Shall Not Seenon videbunt

 A Brief History of the Association of Old Crows (AOC)

By: Gene S. Bartlow, CAE
AOC Executive Director, September 2002 thru October 2004

In the beginning. It all started as an idea to have a small friendly gathering that would reunite men tied together through the common bond of having served in the Strategic Air Command (SAC) as Electronic Countermeasures (ECM) officers. By September 1964, the reunion idea had grown too large to be staged as an informal outing, and ended up in a large reception room at one of the largest hotels in Washington, DC – the original beginnings of the AOC as a non-profit association. Few at the time could have predicted the eventual success and longevity of the association almost forty years later.

During World War II Allied ECM officers, tasked to disrupt enemy communications and radars, were given the code name of “Raven” to provide a degree of security to their existence. After WWII, a group of Raven operators were directed to establish a SAC flying course in ECM operations at McGuire AFB, New Jersey. From all accounts from those present at the time, the students changed the name to “Crows” and those engaged in the profession became known as Old Crows.

In early 1942, Mel Jackson was the first officer assigned to ECM duties in the US Army Air Corps and he served in ECM staff positions throughout WWII. Mel Jackson was also the first to come up with the idea of an Association of Old Crows. Sometime around 1953, while he was a marketing manager for CGS Associates doing business in ECM equipment, Mel Jackson had membership certificates made, had some identifying coins minted, and began passing out memberships to the military personnel he was dealing with, as a sort of honorarium from his company. Mel Jackson adopted a logo for the association (similar to the AOC logo shown above, right) from the one used by the Aircraft Radiation Laboratory (ARL) at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio in 1953. During the 1950’s, many versions of that Crow logo appeared on decals, coffee mugs, tie clasps, lapel pins, ash trays, and other assorted memorabilia being distributed by the industrial participants as promotional give-aways. Some SAC ECM organizations had a version that carried the motto “Non Videbunt”, which translates from the Latin to “They Shall Not See”. The AOC logo shown above right was formally adopted as AOC’s official logo in 1965.

In the summer of 1964, five or six meetings were held of interested parties to consider what kind of an event to stage and just how and where to stage it. Out of these meetings, a plan was developed to schedule the reunion during the time of the annual convention of the Air Force Association, which would bring in many of the Crows from outside the Washington, DC metropolitan area. The final tally of the Crows banquet at the Shoreham Hotel held on September 9th, 1964 was 360 attendees. They came from all over the US and included all three military services, as well as many from industry and universities engaged in ECM research. Of that group of attendees, 130 joined the AOC and paid $5.00 for one year’s membership dues and the AOC was born with Frank Witry as AOC’s first elected President.

On the whole, the events of September 9th, 1964 represented a rather modest start, and carried little indication that the association would progress beyond the stage of being an annual reunion to relive old ECM experiences. However, the organization created that day turned out to be unique, with a remarkable professional presence, and with an outstanding record of accomplishments for its members and for the nation.

The Mission and Membership Grows. In just two years, by the end of 1966, the AOC had grown to 2,300 members. Additionally, in 1967 the AOC magazine, “Crow Caws” (1964-67), published its first two technical articles: “Dynamic Radar Cross-Section”, by R. F. “Reb” Russell of Boeing and F. M. Belrose of Redstone Arsenal; and “Video Recording as Applied to ECM Testing”, by Lt. Thomas E. Simondi of the Air Proving Ground Center at Eglin AFB, Florida.

The 1968 AOC convention was held in San Antonio, Texas, and marked the first time that industry exhibits were provided. Eight companies rented booth space in the San Antonio Convention Center – for the record these were:

• Astro Science
• F & M Associates
• The Hallicrafters Company
• Hewlett Packard Company
• Hughes Aircraft Company
• Malaker Corporation
• Tracor, Inc.
• Unidynamics (Phoenix)

An additional 1968 milestone was a commitment to publish a magazine on a quarterly basis. The original title for this publication, “Crow Caws”, was changed to “Electronic Warfare”, and the first issue (Issue Number 1, Volume 1) of this publication appeared in February 1969 and the third quarter issue had 69 pages supported by advertisers, which was the issue distributed at the annual convention that year.

In 1973 the AOC’s 10th Annual Convention and Symposium was held at the Washington Hilton Hotel and resulted in a record attendance; 2,500 were present at the banquet and AOC membership was approaching 8,000 members with 50 chapters.

The AOC’s journal publication objectives evolved over time and a transitional decision was made to move into an arrangement with a Boston-based publisher, Horizon House. The journal title, “Electronic Warfare”, was changed to: “The Journal of Electronic Defense”. The first new journal issue, Volume 1, Number 1, was published on July/August 1978. “The Journal of Electronic Defense” has grown into a widely respected monthly professional journal publication with a subscription base of over 15,000. “The Journal of Electronic Defense” remains the official publication of the AOC and is the primary mode of communications with the AOC membership.

The AOC funds a long-term project to document the history of United States electronic warfare. The first volume was published in 1984 and Volume II was published in late 1989; Volume III, which documents the history of U.S. electronic warfare from 1964 to the present, was published in 2000. Episode 1 of the video series, The Invisible War, was first aired on The Learning Channel in 1996. Episodes 2 and 3 are also now available.

DoD encourages non-profit associations and other organizations to maintain a two-way communication flow between DoD, interested professionals, and industry to provide information pertaining to issues and problems of national and international security. DoD recognizes this ongoing dialogue as essential to industry, military and civil government organizations worldwide. AOC works hard to provide this communications avenue for interested governmental and other professionals and industry.

The AOC Educational Foundation. In 1974, the Board of Directors implemented a new National Scholarship Program, by which funds were furnished to the local chapters to add to their own allocations. By 1978, the annual contribution of the National AOC to chapters having scholarship programs reached $10,000. In 1987, 36 chapters, more than a third of those in existence at the time, were making scholarship grants to deserving students with a total disbursement of more than $100,000. The AOC Educational Foundation was established and approved by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) on July 29th, 1986 as a non-profit charitable tax-exempt organization. The focus of the AOC Educational Foundation is to ensure a continuous base of engineering talent to address future EW technological challenges; and these scholarships are designed to assist undergraduate students in electrical engineering, physics, mathematics, and related areas. Funding is also provided through the enlisted tuition assistance program to assist military enlisted personnel with the cost of off duty, college-level education programs. Finally, the AOC Educational Foundation funds the AOC Speakers Bureau to make speakers available for local chapter events

The National Office. On April 1st, 1970, the AOC expanded its administrative support staff by appointing the first full-time Executive Director, who worked at the AOC National Office at 1750 Pennsylvania Ave., Suite 1316, NW, Washington, DC 20006. The expenses associated with this decision created financial problems which eventually had to be alleviated by the first dues increase from $5.00 to $7.00 as well as an increase in the initiation fee from $2.00 to $3.00.

Three other office moves were made over the years (until the AOC building was completed in 1986).

  • Moved in January 1973 to 1525 Martha Custis Drive, Alexandria, Virginia 22302.
  • Moved in February 1974 to the Hayes Building, 2361 South Jefferson Davis Highway, Suite 606, Arlington, Virginia 22201.
  • Moved in July 1977 to 2300 9th Street, South, Suite 300, Arlington, Virginia 22204.

In July 1985 a decision was made by the AOC Board of Directors to build an AOC National Headquarters Building with a budget not to exceed $2,000,000. A ground-breaking ceremony was held on March 26th, 1986; and by December 27th, 1986 the AOC began the move into a new three-story brick building containing 12,000 square feet of office space on the two upper floors and parking space for 22 cars in a covered garage at ground level. The second story was leased to other tenants, which provides an additional source of income. This location has proved to be well placed as additional new buildings were constructed nearby enhancing the value of the property. The AOC Building is located at 1000 North Payne Street, Alexandria, Virginia 22314-1652 and is adjacent to the Braddock Road Metro station with easy access to Reagan National Airport, the Pentagon, and Capitol Hill.

The AOC Today. The AOC is an IRS 501(c)(6) non-profit tax-exempt professional association with an annual budget of approximately $2.4M, 10 staff, and over 14,500 members including 65 chapters from 19 countries (comprised of 29% government and active duty military and 49% defense electronics industry). Chapters located outside of the US include Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Republic of Korea, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, and the United Kingdom.

Membership peaked around 1988 with approximately 25,000 members and has declined from that number to around 14,565 in 2002, a reduction of 40% since 1990. This reduction is the result of a combination of factors, including reduced DoD spending on EW since the end of the Cold War and Desert Storm, reduced threat research by DoD, service mission transformations, and downsizing, consolidations and mergers within the defense industrial community. This results in fewer EW personnel involved in EW platforms and systems.

The AOC is working to adjust to these fact-of-life changes to the national security environment. AOC is now focusing on “Information Operations (IO)”, which includes those actions taken to affect adversary information and information systems, while defending one’s own information and information systems. “Information Operations”, requires the close, continuous integration of offensive and defensive capabilities and activities, as well as effective design, integration, and interaction of command and control with intelligence support. AOC will, in the future, focus on the five primary elements of “Information Operations”, which encompasses Electronic Warfare (EW), Operations Security (OPSEC), Psychological Operations (PSYOPS), Military Deception, and Computer Network Operations (attack, defense, reconnaissance, or exploitation).

In 2000, as a result of an internal study by the association’s Awareness Committee and the approval of a new Year 2000 Strategic Plan, the AOC elected to modernize the AOC logo. The logo above right is the result.

The affiliated AOC Educational Foundation, an IRS 501(c)(3) charitable tax-exempt non-profit organization, continues to provide scholarship grants to college students through the local chapters.

The AOC provides 12-to-15 professional development courses each year (attended by 10-to-25 students) focused on advanced technology topics related to electronic warfare and information operations. The AOC annually sponsors (normally jointly with DoD agencies or other organizations) 10-to-15 two-day technology conferences attended by 75-to-450 conferees. The AOC also conducts major studies in support of DoD and the electronic warfare community. AOC Committees have investigated and reported findings on production of traveling wave tubes, the electronic warfare industrial base, EW test methodology, EW measures of effectiveness, critical EW technology, and a new approach to EW acquisition.

In Summary. The continued need for Electronic Warfare and Information Operation systems and capabilities in support of national security underscores the continued need for the AOC. As AOC addresses its evolving role in fulfilling this future requirement, the AOC can take great pride that the association and its members will be focused on answering the challenge with the experienced, professional perspective of an organization that is 50 years old.