In Detach and Target, CIA Critical Engagement Specialist Dr. Kendra McKay has spent more than a decade developing Intel and tactics to deal with some of the most dangerous threats the United States faces. She begins the story in Iraq in 2005, where Kendra has spent six months on the ground with a group of Marines on a vital mission. As we move to the present, she is an instructor at the Marines Special Operations Command (MARSOC), introducing a select group of Marine leaders to her unorthodox, but highly effective, methods.

Q&A with Dr. Kendra McKay

How would you describe yourself?

(Smirks) The first thing that popped into my head was the Verve song, Bitter Sweet Symphony. The line goes, “I’m a million different people from one day to the next.”

I know that song, it’s on my playlist. What are some things that you strongly believe in?

I believe in protecting the people who make up this great nation. Working with the Marines gives me that chance. On the surface, it’s a little hard to see the connection between our organizations. Trust me, world events do impact American lives.

Somehow, I don’t doubt what you’re saying. So, what keeps you up at night?

Allah’s Divine Leaders (ADL), the group we’ve just identified, is smarter than what we’ve seen in the past. They make ISIS look like a joke. We have to crack the Intel and get busy.

Do you think we can defeat this terrorist group?

We don’t have a choice. But, we have to continue to strengthen our relations with Jordan. The King has proven with ISIS that he has the will to conquer. Our first priority is keeping America safe. To do this, we have to shut the group down at the source. Much like how we brought down al Qaida, we are going after the ADL leaders and money. Shut down the money and they will not be able to sustain operations.

It sounds like you have a solid plan.

We are still working on the details. At this point we know what we have to do. Now we have to go heads down into the Intel we have gathered so far and go after new sources. Information is key.

How do your strengths and weaknesses play into working the Intel?

Strength, would have to be my drive to succeed. There is nothing I will not do to get Intel on the fuckers, then unleash the Marines to destroy them. (She pauses with an intent look on her face) Right now my weakness is compartmentalizing my feelings for a teammate. (McKay shifts in her seat) Can we move on?

Okay, so how do you relax after work?

Relax, can you define that for me? (Raises an eyebrow) Frankly, I’m an adrenaline junkie. You know my addiction to strong coffee and fast boats. But seriously, a glass of wine and music can transform me. My playlist is very random. Of course there is Alter Bridge. (Flashes the rock’n roll sign) I chose the music that I need at the moment. I have everything from classical, new age, pop, alternative, country…well you get the picture.

What about a favorite book or movie?

My taste in movies and books is just as varied as music. I love the classics in both. (Smiles) Every year around Christmas my family has the tradition of watching the 1958 movie Auntie Mame, staring Rosalind Russell. The line that gets me every time is when she tells her young nephew, “Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death!” (Laughs)