Monday, May 06, 2013

Research Breeds Admiration and Respect

 Ronie Kendig is an award-winning, bestselling author who grew up an Army brat. She married her own hunky hero, who’s an Army veteran. Her life is never dull in a family with four children and two dogs. She has a degree in psychology, speaks to various groups, is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and mentors new writers. Rapid-Fire Fiction, her brand, is exemplified through her novels: Dead Reckoning, the Discarded Heroes military series, which includes acclaimed novels Nightshade, Digitalis, Wolfsbane, Firethorn, and Trinity: Military War Dog. Ronie can be found at www.roniekendig.com, on Facebook (www.facebook.com/rapidfirefiction), Twitter (@roniekendig), and GoodReads.


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            One of the most intriguing aspects of being an author is the research, and I’m often asked how I research for the military suspense I write, since I have only been an Army brat and never served. The dull answer is hours upon hours of reading, watching documentaries, interviewing heroes, immersing myself (as much as I can) in their world. However, it’s not all boring! Invariably, as I dug deeper into the military working dogs (MWDs) for my A Breed Apart series, I met some of the most heroic men and women I write about.

SGT Kowtko and MWD Igor M064
      It’s inevitable as the research continues (which it does since the combat theater is always changing), an author gains a greater appreciation, respect, and admiration for those in the career fields or situations they’ve chosen. That is definitely true of my in-depth research over the past three years into military working dogs. I’ve talked with and met handlers and their two-legged superiors—yes, you read that right; working dogs hold a rank one step higher than their handlers so it’s never in question how the dog should be treated—and am left in awe.
            Even when an author might think they have a grasp on their subject, sometimes through their research, they realize how little they really knew! That happened with the MWDs. I had no idea there were so many different types of specializations. For example, there are the standard working, but there are also patrol dogs, combat tracking team dogs, narcotics dogs, tactical explosive detection dogs, patrol dogs. In fact, I read somewhere that there are hundreds of specialty variations, including dogs specially trained with the various Special Operations Command branches.
            It’s been awe-inspiring to research the dogs, the handlers, and the history, and a natural side effect of research is developing a healthy admiration for those in the field. Such is the case with the the handler featured at the back of Talon, Combat Tracking Team, CPL Andrew Kowtko. Through all our correspondence, he conducted himself with humility and honor, never once bragging on himself or his accomplishments, instead he focused on the MWDs. His humility was so strong that he never corrected in my initial correspondence for referring to him as CPL when he had, in fact, been promoted to SGT. But that was just the beginning of this sergeant’s humility. I also learned from one of his superiors that SGT Kowtko had received a Purple Heart. I was stunned—here this young man (now that I’m over 40, everyone feels young!) had shared a combat experience with MWDs and never mentioned himself or his courage. When he provided a biography I requested, it stunned me. Take a peek:
My personal decorations include the Purple Heart Medal, Combat Action Ribbon, 3 Navy Unit Commendation Ribbons, a Meritorious Unit Commendation, Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Iraqi Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Medal, 2 Sea Service Deployment Ribbons, and a ISAF NATO Medal.
Sgt Kowtko & MWD Igor - bonding
           Authors write about the men and women who inspire us, sometimes using real-life events or heroes as inspiration (SGT Kowtko and MWD Igor definitely inspire!). Their stories and real-life experiences have served as inspiration for me to write stories tales of heroism and courage that I believe honestly reflect the valor of the military working dogs and their handlers. It’s so exhilarating, that I often feel like I’m cheating. True, research is laborious, but it’s moments like this that make it all worth it!

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 Talon: Combat Tracking Teamlaunched May 1st!

Aspen Courtland is out to find her missing brother. Only his combat tracking dog, Talon, knows where to look. Problem is, after a brutal attack that separated dog and handler, Talon’s afraid of his own shadow. The search is on, but when one mistake means disaster, can Talon muster the courage for one last mission?

3 comments:

Nicole said...

I admire you, Ronie. Your research, your heart for all of these heroes, your dedication to presenting the multi-faceted look at the military, war dogs included. Great job. Admirable, courageous, and meaningful work on all of you. God bless you in His abundance.

Maryann Miller said...

So nice to get to know a bit more about these terrific dogs and their handlers.

Ronie Kendig said...

Thank you, Nicole! Like I said--it's so fascinating and fun, I feel like I'm cheating! :-D They are truly amazing.