MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. --
In June, the Department of Navy recognized a Program Executive Officer Land Systems engineer with the Dr. Delores M. Etter Top Scientists and Engineers of the Year award for 2020.
Ali Olinger, a systems engineer with the Ground/Air Task Oriented Radar program at PEO Land Systems, was one of two emergent engineers selected to receive this year’s Etter Award, and was the only Marine Corps honoree.
The annual award, named after former Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition Dr. Delores M. Etter, was established in 2006 to recognize excellence among the DON’s highest-performing scientists and engineers who have made significant contributions in their fields. This year’s ceremony will be held virtually on July 24.
Olinger’s leadership nominated her due to her significant positive impact to the G/ATOR program. She was instrumental in helping demonstrate readiness for the early deployment and Full-Rate Production of the major defense acquisition program in 2018.
“We nominated Ali because she’s one of our brightest and most motivated engineers,” said Barbara Gault, deputy program manager for G/ATOR at PEO Land Systems. “She always wants to keep learning. She’s the type of person who masters one subject and then asks to learn something new. She’s held multiple different engineering positions in our office [because of that].”
Leveraging her data analytics expertise, Olinger led a data analysis working group while collaborating with Marine Corps stakeholders, warfare centers, federally funded research and development centers, and support contractor engineers to test, analyze and report the system’s ability to meet Marine Corps requirements.
“She was working with this cross-functional [Integrated Product Team] and doing a phenomenal job,” said Yolanda Ward, chief engineer for the G/ATOR program. “When we were doing developmental testing, she helped us collect and analyze all the data, and reported the results to stakeholders, working with subject matter experts who were far senior to her, which was very impressive.”
Olinger joined Marine Corps Systems Command in 2013 after interning with the Combat Support Systems program office through the Defense Department’s Science, Mathematics and Research for Transformation Scholarship for Service program, which offers full scholarships and guaranteed civilian employment within the DOD to undergraduate students majoring in STEM fields.
“I came to the G/ATOR program for an internal rotation in August 2015 and loved it so much that I’ve been working there ever since,” explained Olinger. “Working on G/ATOR has given me the opportunity to have some focus areas and see a lot more of the acquisition lifecycle for an ACAT 1 program.”
When she’s not working on G/ATOR, Olinger spends her free time furthering her education—she recently earned her Master’s degree in Engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School and a certificate in data analytics from Cornell University.
She is currently the chairwoman for the command’s Marine Corps Females in Technology group. Olinger credits her leadership, coworkers and mentors—past and present—for her personal and professional growth, and works to ensure future female engineers at the command also have a solid network of support.
“I think her nomination and selection is spot on and representative of the kind of person, both personally and professionally, that she is,” said David Karcher, director of Systems Engineering at MCSC, and one of Olinger’s mentors. “She is focused on providing the best support to the Marine Corps by being thoughtful, inquisitive and always striving for better. She represents our future.”