June 28, 2019 (by Stephanie Stinn) - “Once a Marine, always a Marine” took on new meaning for Marietta Flight Operations team members with the delivery of a KC-130J to the U.S. Marine Corps on April 3, 2019.
USMC KC-130J #169532 call sign 'Fixer 55' on approach to Marietta Dobbins ARB on March 6, 2019. [Photo by Luis David Sanchez]
This “Battleherk” (Lockheed Martin a/c #5866
) was delivered to a crew from VMGR-152/MCAS Iwakuni, Japan. It has an added significance as it replaces a KC-130J that crashed off the coast of Japan in December 2018.
Supporting this delivery were several Flight Ops C-130 loadmasters, systems specialists and flight engineers who also are Marine Corps veterans. Together, they represent five decades of service to the Corps and Hercules.
Nick Dicandia, Nick Blehm, Dave Files, Jamie Holdaway, Rob Schiller, John Linville and Chris Weins are the Marietta Flight Ops Marine Corp veterans, whose experience spans five decades of service to the mighty C-130 Hercules.
The Marines took delivery of KC-130J 5866 on Wednesday, April 3, 2019 from Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company in Marietta, Georgia. 5866 is a replacement Super Hercules for a plane that crashed off the coast of Japan in 2018. Former Marine Lockheed Martin employees and the crew taking delivery of 5866 held a moment of silence to honor their fallen teammates before the delivery.
“Once a Marine, always a Marine. Even though we have never met the young men and women now serving in the Corps, they are our brothers and sisters. When a Marine aircraft comes down the line we know that plane is going to go to our family. We want to make sure that everyone knows that plane is our plane and that the Marines coming to pick it up know it is the best we can give them,” said Nick Blehm, a C-130 Flight Engineer.
“It’s not just that we were all Marines who served; we are all C-130 Marines that served in the same units, almost at one given time,” added David Files, an Aircraft Systems specialist.
One long time and very special member of the team is Dicandia, who is the longest serving C-130 Aircraft Flight test flight engineer at Lockheed Martin Aeronautics.
“He’s made a lot of contributions to the C-130 community in general, especially the Marine C-130 community,” Files said of his teammate.
Dicandia enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1966. As a KC-130 engine/propeller mechanic technician, he served in the Vietnam War for four years. He also deployed overseas in support of the Grenada Conflict and Desert Storm, among others.
Dicandia left the Marine Corps after 30 years to work at Lockheed Martin.
“I am a blessed individual. I rose to the top of my profession. I worked hard for it. The C-130 is part of a family. I’ve spent over 15,000 hours on that airplane. That’s almost twice as much time than I spent with my family,” he said. “I’m lucky that my family supported me and that allowed me to succeed.”
Since joining the team in 1996, he has served as a Field Support representative, Air Operations specialist, Flight Test engineer and Contract Field Team supervisor.
Dicandia also assisted and supervised the final configuration and delivery of all 23 C-130J aircraft to the Royal Air Force. He was the lead Air Operations Systems specialist assigned to the LM-100J FAA certification effort completing his tasks during the latter part of 2018.
Dicandia is preparing for a well-earned retirement this summer after nearly 23 years as a dedicated Lockheed Martin employee and aircrew member.
“The reason we have so much of an affinity with the Marine Corps aircraft is because it’s personal and it’s a brotherhood,” Dicandia said. “Because the [Marine Corp aviation] community is small, the rotation is high. We hand down the history, customs and traditions.”