My desire & passion to share
The positive light in this dark world
Led to the birth of this series
All of the
Beautiful & Interesting things
I'm discovering about members
Was all of the inspiration I needed...
My series It's All About The Members began with
Featuring & interviewing
Members of the 501st Legion
From around the world
As I continue learning about the people
Who are out there
Making a difference in the world
What I discover
Right here In my blog
With that being said
This interview Features
501st Member Chris Campbell
How did you first learn out about the 501st?
I went to my first major convention in 2001 in Atlanta - Dragon*Con. I was wearing basically a bathrobe Jedi outfit as I thought it would be cool lol. Less than 10 min after being there I saw a stormtrooper and was immediately enthralled. Here was a real stormtrooper from the movies! From that point on I just saw more and more and finally worked up the courage to ask one of them about the armor.
What inspired you to want to join?
Well the honest answer is how cool the armor was and looked on people. I didn't learn of the charity work until after the con was over and I was able to look up some more info online. I'd already decided I wanted to be a part of the group but had I been on the fence the charity and children work would have pushed me over the top
Which Garrison are you a part of?
I'm a part of the Star Garrison that's comprised of Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. Particularly I'm in the Arkansas Crimson Nova squad, which is just the Arkansas members of the Star Garrison
How long have you been a member?
I joined up after getting my biker scout costume finished in early 2002 about 7 months after learning of the 501st. I was the 3rd Arkansan to become a 501st member but at that time. I was the only one in the state that was active. I ended up trooping with the Southern Outpost (now known as the Mid South Garrison & Alabama Garrison) as living in eastern Arkansas. It was easier to travel to Tennessee and Alabama than it was to Texas at the time. Meeting so many new people across the 501st was very enjoyable and really gives you a lot of perspective on how different areas do things.
How did you decide on your costume?
First was comfort. As a bigger guy I didn't think the standard TK armor would fit/look right on me. Scout armor is a bit more forgiving as it's made of quite a bit of cloth parts and it was designed for the trooper to sit down (which a lot of TK's can't do). Second I always liked the scouts in ROTJ cause they had awesome bikes
Where did you get your costume? Did you make yours?
I made all of the cloth parts, the armor was vacuformed. The costume has been upgraded several times over the years. Most recently a buddy who is also a scout, helped me make a new even more accurate cummerbund. Currently I’m in need of a new helmet as the one I use now is just about to fall apart lol. Unfortunately I'm also finishing up building an R2-D2 so until that is finished, my helmet upgrade is on hold.
Where have you traveled to participate in 501st events?
I've been all over really, easily the most traveled trooper from the state of Arkansas. I've trooped in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Texas, and California. I hope to continue adding to that list in the upcoming years.
Where’s the farthest you’ve traveled?
San Diego is my furthest trip from Arkansas to troop. I usually attend San Diego Comic Con and I've trooped that event several times and the children's hospital out there twice now. I've actually driven to San Diego from Arkansas as well as flown over the years, and it's a 3400 + mile roundtrip for me.
What’s your fondest 501st memory?
Any of the many children's hospital visits I've done over the years. You are going into a place where some of these kids will never leave and you are able to cheer them up for the afternoon/day and make them forget why they are in there. That's really the most rewarding experience I've ever felt knowing that I've given someone else some real happiness. Our first visit to the Arkansas Children's Hospital back in 2008 was really special as I have friends that work at the facility that didn't know I was there trooping. I heard after the event how these star wars people were at the hospital and the kids and doctors just wouldn't shut up about it for weeks, lol.
How do you contribute to the 501st legion?
Well, I try to help out whenever possible. I've driving 6+ hours to an event just because they really needed a large showing and didn't have enough local troopers to fill out the ranks. I've volunteered to help out for 501st stuff at cons over the years helping at the table, droid hunt, panels, etc. I also helped run the 501st's Star Wars Galaxies video game branch, the 501st Expeditionary Force (XFOR), for about 3 years. Granted that was just pure fun and nothing truly related to the 501st other than in name and the people involved, but it was great nonetheless.
Also there are times when we actually have more troopers show up than needed. In those instances, I'll generally not suit up and will help out as a handler. I'm also an amateur photographer, so I usually just end up shooting the event. That usually makes folks happy, as I'm fairly well known for some of my shots especially at conventions. When you are in armor, taking pictures just isn't usually possible and a lot of times non members that are handling just don't have the opportunity to take pictures and help as they are overwhelmed if they've not been doing this for a while.
What’s your favorite thing about being a 501st member?
At this point in life, helping the kids out is the easily the best part. I have a few nieces and nephews and I know how they love star wars along with other children. Again, the hospital visits are amazing and honestly, out of the 5 I've done, I don't think I've ever left the hospital without crying at least once. Knowing you are with a child that isn't expected to make it past the next few months, but seeing them smile like they don't have a care in the world because they are seeing stormtroopers from star wars is just an amazing feeling.
What’s the day like for you as a 501st member preparing for an event?
Well, since I'm an old timer is much different than in the earlier years of doing this, lol. Originally, I'd polish my armor, make sure every little detail was in place, I had a checklist to make sure I didn't forget anything, I'd pack a small cooler of water and Gatorade for everyone, and I'd usually try to be there 30min-to an hour early.
Now-a-days, I sleep in as late as possible (if the event is on a Saturday), find my armor bin and hope I'd repacked everything, throw it in the SUV and take off. I do still get there about 30minutes early, as that's just a pet peeve of mine to be late for anything. This has only backfired on me once, as I had forgotten to put my flightsuit back in the bin after washing it, so I arrived at the event without an undersuit. Luckily we had plenty of other troopers there so I just worked as a handler and took pictures of the event.
Does the 501st have ranks or positions? What is your position?
The only real ranks are Garrison and Legion CO and XO, Squad Leader, and the appointed positions to get administrative work done such as the websites and intra-legion merchandise. I don't hold any official position, though I’ve never really cared too either :D I do the website and forums for the Arkansas Squad and help out with the garrison site, graphics, and advertising when needed. My Squad Leader here in Arkansas is Tracy Wilson and he does a super job at planning out events and trying to get folks there.
Do you have duties you have to adhere to during events?
Specifically no, however I try to take pictures as much as possible, I'm actually able to do it even in my thick biker gloves rather well now a days, due to lots of practice. Being a biker scout has it's advantages, such as POCKETS! They are easy to reach in the front and are the perfect size to bring a decent camera in.
As I previously mentioned, when we have extra troopers show up, I generally will not suit up and help wrangle troopers, take pictures, direct traffic, whatever is needed. As I've been building an R2, and have the only one in the state of Arkansas, I’ve been bringing him and driving him around more and more rather than actually trooping in armor. Even though R2 isn't part of the 501st, we've found it adds an extra Star Warsy feel and the kids absolutely love him. So they try to get me to bring him whenever possible.
Any upcoming events?
As of writing this, my squad has a Make a Wish foundation event we're doing for a child this Saturday, surprising him with a toy shopping spree and hanging out with him for a bit. Unfortunately it doesn't look like I'll be able to make that event, as I leave for Orlando Florida that morning to go to Celebration V. I'm still trying to see if I can change my schedule around to be able to help out at this event, but as it was just sprung on us today and I've had these plans in place for a few months, it's going be a hard sell. Thankfully my squad already has a number of troopers that are able to make it so I feel the event is in wonderful hands.
Celebration V is next week starting on Thursday. This is a large Star Wars convention that Lucasfilm sponsors. Two weeks after that we have Dragon*Con in Atlanta which other than years where Celebration occurs, is generally the largest meet up of 501st troops across the nation. That basically wraps up what is known as "con season". As of right now, my squad's next event is planned for October 2nd
Anything else you would like to add?
The 501st is really a great and eclectic group. We all do different things, we have different interests, from different parts of the world, but we are all united in a love for Star Wars and that's truly something great. All large groups have personality conflicts and disagreements, and the 501st is no different, but we still work past those issues and get along to do what we love doing, trooping and being a part of the Star Wars universe. This is one of the things that make our group so great! TB-3529 signing off *static*
My 501st profile - http://501st.com/members/displaymemberdetails.php?userID=2708
My twitter/facebook/myspace/flickr name - uubergeek
Thank you for sharing your story with us Chris!
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