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Book Review: Rise of the Mavericks: The U.S. Air Force Security Service and the Cold War

Rise of the Mavericks: The U.S. Air Force Security Service and the Cold War. By Philip C. Shackelford. U.S. Naval Institute Press;; 248 pages; $34.95.

Throughout Rise of the Mavericks: The U.S. Air Force Security Services and the Cold War, 1948-1979, the reader can see how the U.S. Air Force security service (USAFFSS) force was poorly equipped and ill-prepared at the start of the Korean War. It also struggled in the years after for its place in the intelligence community.

Rise of the Mavericks addresses the creation of the USAFSS, as well as the unfortunate bureaucratic infighting that it was forced to contend with through the years. Author Philip C. Shackleford shows how the fledgling security service emerged from the Army Air Force and faced challenges and resistance along the way from other services and intelligence agencies. This battle coincides with the Korean War, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the Vietnam War.

During the 1970s, the USAFSS faced consolidation and streamlining while its mission was evolving into electronic warfare. Shackleford discusses the USAFSS’s ground and airborne intercept operations, and the expansion of its facilities worldwide. The author also explains the agency’s growth to meet the need for targeting intelligence on the Soviet Union and its allies.

The ultimate point of Rise of the Mavericks is that the Air Force has been an organization which has constantly strived—by its continuing research and development program—to achieve its mission through the advancement of aerospace technology. Shackelford also makes readers realize the degree to which the Air Force depends on the technical expertise of its personnel in achieving its mission.

Throughout this book, Shackelford displays facts with technological superiority. This book addresses all aspects of Air Force service and identifies the changing demands of the American strategy that victory must be swiftly achieved through the Air Force’s ability to meet those changing expectations.

Shackelford offers a fresh look at this content in this single-volume history of the Air Force’s first 30 years. He is a good writer who knows his subject and delivers very well. Most importantly, Shackelford is willing to criticize when appropriate. There is no denying that American aviators did their duty well despite every possible handicap presented in varied wars as well as the endless changes of strategy. Finally, as a book for a broad readership, Shackelford skillfully weaves the strands of this complex story into a rich tapestry of how the U.S. Air Force has made a valuable contribution to military history.


Reviewer: Dr. Mark H. Beaudry, CPP, is an assistant professor at Worcester State University in the Department of Criminal Justice. He is a U.S. Marine Corps (ret.) intelligence chief and antiterrorism instructor. He is a member of the 2023-2024 ASIS International Professional Standards Board and a frequent contributor to Security Management, book reviews, the Protection of Assets manuals, and many guidelines and standards. He has written four books and contributed chapters for 16 books. Beaudry also serves as an advisor for publishers to review book proposals and revisions, and peer review journals: Journal of Applied Security Research, Security Journal, and the International Journal of Cybersecurity Intelligence and Cybercrime. Beaudry is also co-chair for Cyber Career Pathways working group of NICE (National Initiative for Cyber Education).