A Trooper’s Point of View: Getting Started

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Storm Trooper-09So you’re interested in joining the 501st Legion.  How do you become a part of the Galactic Empire?  Membership in the 501st only has three requirements.  First, you must be 18 years old.  Second, you must own an approved costume.  Third, you must wear that costume to an event at least once a year.  It’s the second point that we will focus on this time around.

I frequently get asked “What costume should I build?”  That is not an easy question for me to answer.  First, the costumes are not cheap.  Your standard trooper can easily be a $500 – $1000 investment.  Secondly, they take a while to build.  It took me about three and a half months to build my Stormtrooper.  Lastly, these costumes were designed with looks first and comfort second.  With that in mind I tell people to go with what they truly love.  If it’s your favorite character or you have a connection to the costume it will make everything that much better.

Now is the part where I tell you that I did not heed my own advice.  When I first made the decision to join the 501st I dove in before I had thought about what costume I wanted.  I really had no connections or particular affinity for the Stormtroopers before beginning my build.  In building the costume and doing my research, I grew to love the iconic design.  Now the troopers are one of my favorite parts of the saga.

You saw the 501st online or at a convention and want to join.  First we recommend signing up to the local garrison forums.  It’s an easy way to introduce yourself to the group and to find out about events and members in the area.  Secondly, you need to decide what costume you want to build.  After you decide what costume you want, you will want to check out the appropriate detachment.  This is a website and forum dedicated to a particular costume type.  Here you can find other people with that costume, tutorials, helpful advice and more.  You can find links to both garrison websites and the detachment sites on www.501st.com.

Box 1After purchasing your armor the waiting is the hardest part.  That time between sending in your money and the box arriving can be painful.  The day finally arrives and you get the Big Brown Box.  You open it up and see all the plasticy goodness.  It starts out like Christmas morning as you open the box, but you quickly realize how much work you have ahead of you in assembling this.  A box full of plastic is exciting and terrifying.  Where do I start?

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This is where the detachments will come in.  You can see others who are building the costume as well as follow tutorials and a wealth of helpful information.  I started with the smaller pieces to test out and worked my way up to the harder parts.  This is where I say that it’s helpful to have that connection to the character or the costume.  If you truly love it, it will keep you going when things get frustrating or difficult, and they will get frustrating and difficult.

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Full bodyAfter trooping for over a year, I decided I wanted a new helmet.  I spent the better part of a year building, tearing down, rebuilding, sanding and repainting my new helmet.  It was test of my skills and my patience as it seems anything that could’ve gone wrong, went wrong.  By the time I was finished I had nicknamed it the “Hell Bucket.”  More than once I wanted to punt it across the lawn and give up.  Remember it’s not a race.  If it will help you, set deadlines, but set realistic deadlines.  Everyone in the Legion has been there before, and we want to help you.  Troopers helping Troopers is a motto many live by.

Helmet pieces

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Once you have completed your build you take pictures of yourself fully dressed and submit them to your local Garrison Membership Liaison.  They will review the pictures, making sure your costume is built to the Legion standards.  When you are approved you choose your Legion ID number and take your place in the Empire.

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