By Tonya Johnson
DCMA Public Affairs
VALLEY FORGE, Pa. - Gina Copello loves to put on her boxing gloves and get in the ring.
“I had always been a scrapper growing up, with an older brother and two male cousins that lived in the apartment above us in Brooklyn,” said Copello, who has worked for the Defense Contract Management Agency for three years. “My brother and I use to fight like crazy, but that was back when we were kids. I looked at boxing as just another sport I wanted to try. My mother didn’t look at it that way. She hated that I was into boxing, and now that I am a mother, I get it.”
Copello now boxes for fun and to get in a good workout. But she used to box competitively and was part of the first group of women to teach martial arts in the Marine Corps. In 2001 and 2002, she was ranked number six in her weight class by USA Boxing.
Copello is a quality assurance specialist with DCMA Lockheed Martin Moorestown, New Jersey, but since November, she works out of an office here. Prior to this, she worked at a DCMA office in Newton, New Jersey, on various satellite programs for NASA and the Air Force.
“Gina is a superstar,” said Navy Capt. Eric Oettl, DCMA Lockheed Martin Moorestown’s commander. “She constantly strives to provide much needed critical quality assurance insight on Lockheed Martin programs to our customers. But she’s not just a superstar in her field, she's also a superstar in helping others. Her incredible attitude and willingness to assist her colleagues are always on display. She helps set a positive ‘one team, one voice’ tone across our contract management office.”
Copello said her love for boxing has helped her excel in her professional career. She said the sport requires preparation, determination, lack of fear and a person has to be willing to take risks. She said those are characteristics that can help people succeed in their job.
“You don’t step into a ring unprepared,” she said. “Boxing is a sport, and there is so much that goes into it like footwork, breathing, balance, form, angles, offense, defense and the list goes on. But more importantly, you have to be able to perform under pressure.
“It’s just you and your opponent in the ring with no team to carry you,” added Copello. “You never know how you will react to a situation until you actually experience it, and the more situations you’re in, the better reactions you are going to have. That goes for boxing and life.”
Copello deployed to Afghanistan last year, and said the experience made her a better DCMA employee.
“I looked forward to the deployment mission,” she said. “It was something new that I wanted to conquer. The only down side was having to leave my daughter especially at such a young age.”
During her deployment, she oversaw the Logistics Civil Augmentation Program IV, also known as LOGCAP, contract at Bagram Airfield that covered 69 services. Those services included dining facilities, waste water treatment plant, water production, fire protection and emergency services, facilities management, and fuel storage and distribution.
“I was put in daily situations where I had to hold my own, or I would have been eaten alive out there,” she said. “I managed, trained and mentored 34 contracting officer’s representatives, both military and Army and Air Force civilians. It was a lot of responsibility to handle. I’ll never forget when my replacement arrived. After a few days during our turnover, he said to me, ‘I don’t know how I’m going to fill your shoes.’ I told him to just own it.”
Copello said her 10 years in the Marine Corps and her background in radio repair helped prepare her for the hectic, deployed environment.
“It’s played a huge role in the employee and person I am today,” she said. “The Marine Corps gave me the technical skills needed to perform my job. With the deployable position — sending a Marine into a contingency operation — I was well prepared and excelled in that environment.”
Army Col. Anthony Wizner, commander of DCMA Dallas, led the agency’s team in Afghanistan and said Copello was a valuable employee in theater.
“Gina arrived in Afghanistan with the perfect attitude to succeed,” said Wizner. “She has a fantastic work ethic. She not only covered all of her own assignments and exceeded our standard, but she frequently teamed up with a fellow quality assurance representative when she thought it would be a good learning opportunity. She spent extra time teaching or conducting joint audits with her CORs.
“She also conducted several special audits on behalf of the command looking into fraud hotline inquires,” he added. “She was instrumental in identifying several cost efficiency opportunities on the LOGCAP contract that resulted in reducing the level of service to match the actual demand. It resulted in several million dollars of cost savings to the United States government and no impact to the service the customer expected.”
In addition to volunteering for a deployment, Copello is currently participating in the Operational Contracting Support Joint Exercise at Fort Bliss, Texas. It is an exercise for military and civilian personnel to test and assess contract support capabilities during contingency or humanitarian operations.
“Contracting plays a huge role is supporting the warfighter,” said Copello. “This will be my first time participating in the exercise, and I am stoked to be part of it. I’m hoping to gain from the experience a better understanding on what goes into the requirements phase and how to effectively recognize and integrate joint requirements. I’m also hoping to be able to bring my expertise to the table on effectively managing and surveilling contract services in a contingency environment.”
Copello said she is proud to be a DCMA employee and looks forward to a long career with the agency.
“My future career aspiration is to continue on a path forward with DCMA,” she said. “I’ll never stop preparing myself for the next level, which is a leadership position. I always loved the saying, ‘luck is when preparation meets opportunity.’ I’m always preparing. I’m just waiting on my opportunity now.”
Besides staying focused on her DCMA career, Copello will continue to focus on boxing in her spare time. She will be recognized for her achievements in boxing at a banquet next month during the All-Marine Boxing Team Alumni Reunion and Hall of Fame at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Leon Spinks, a former heavyweight champion who once beat Muhammad Ali, is scheduled to attend.
“The reunion is bringing together Marines who fought on the team throughout the years,” she said. “Leon Spinks was on the Marine Corps boxing team in the 1970’s before I was even born. I’m really excited to meet him. I’ll be recognized at the banquet for being a female ground breaker in the boxing program. I can’t wait to see my old teammates and my coach. We keep in touch, thanks to Facebook, but it’s been so long since we have all been together, so I am really looking forward to it.”
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