By Meaghan Cox
A telephone ring interrupts the team’s laughter. The Northrop Grumman Integrated Battle Command Systems (IBCS) field engineers leap into action, zooming across the desert in their jeeps to provide customer support to remote locations. In one of the jeeps, among the heavy tools, the camouflage gear and dust, is a pink tool bag. The owner often wears pearls.
And she is the first female field service rep (FSR) for IBCS.
“It’s taken me 15 years of very hard work to get here,” said Margie, who joined Northrop Grumman a few months ago. “I know so many other women technicians like myself in this field — single moms, educated, experienced, civilians —who are being overlooked.”
An FSR provides support and training for the customer in the field. They assist with conducting program testing and respond to mission system tickets.
“The FSR is the backbone of any program; we provide the customer with 24-hour support at any location through inclement weather, whether it be extreme heat, cold or even during a pandemic,” said field engineer Ricardo Bonilla. “We provide this support as safe as possible, ensuring no damage to equipment or personnel.”
Margie says even working with a team of 17 men, she doesn’t feel out of place.
“The first day I arrived here, the gentlemen were cracking jokes like I was one of them,” she said. “They all hold their backs like I do when coming out from under a relay.” A relay is an antenna relaying signal from one antenna to another.
Ricardo noted, “Margie has easily become part of the team. She’s shown good mechanical skills.”
“It’s not a competition. Don’t push yourself to be stronger, funnier, or smarter. Be ready to glow, grow and work hard,”
–Margie, field service rep (FSR) for IBCS
The environment at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, is a harsh one with hot summers and very cold, windy winters. FSRs are exposed to all the elements when working in the field. None of this keeps Margie from wearing her pearls and pink lipstick.
“The team tries to help me with the heavy stuff, but I got it!” said Margie. “I’ve always been awkwardly strong. Now, if it says ‘two-man lift,’ I’m calling someone.”
The challenges and environment change every day. For women looking to become a FSR, Margie says it’s important to ask lots of questions, relax, adjust and trust in your team. Hers has not let her down.
“It’s not a competition. Don’t push yourself to be stronger, funnier, or smarter. Be ready to glow, grow and work hard,” she advises.
The team updates equipment location and status as the customer moves throughout the desert. Any needed parts are ordered, delivered and installed. Margie said even with her years of experience from past jobs, she is still learning.
“What my team does is extremely important, and it takes a lot,” said Margie.
Margie’s favorite tool is her Leatherman multi-tool, though she wishes it was pink. She is often tinkering with her cars, any broken power tools and helping warfighters align tracks on their howitzers, a large caliber self-propelled cannon. However, being a field engineer was not always her dream. She wanted to be a dancer.
“I love to dance! I dance all the time at home,” she said. Margie has three children, all grown now. She admits it was hard to leave her family for long periods of time when on temporary duty assignments when they were younger.
“My kids are so proud. They sacrificed a lot so I could provide,” said Margie, and adding with a laugh, “They think I know where the aliens are.”
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