Well, look who's back. Yep, like the proverbial bad penny you just can't get rid of me.
One of the first things I read on the forum way, way back when I started my build was that you never really finish your build. After doing my first Troop this past weekend, I can attest to the veracity of that statement. Those of you who have already "finished" know this to be true, while those of you still working on your builds will learn soon enough.
At the risk of creating a TL;DR post, allow me to expand on that.
One of the things I've seen here, though, is that most TKs end their build threads once they hit the field. I've always wondered how they tweaked and upgraded their kits after that, and decided some time ago that I wasn't going leave people hanging. So, with that in mind (and with apologies to Emerson, Lake and Palmer), "Welcome back, my friends, to the build that never ends."
As many of you know, I got my Garrison and 501st approvals on the same day not quite two weeks ago, and achieved EIB status just a week after that. Along with my EIB approval, TheSwede noted that I needed to address two things before submitting for Centurion: Gotta bring those Shoulder Bells in a bit farther, and I have to fix those overlapping side corners on my Back Plate. Naturally, those were number one and two (with a bullet, for those of you old enough to get the reference) on my ongoing build. That is, they were number one and two until I did my first Troop this weekend. So, to restart my build thread, a brief Troop report...
Garrison Carida returned this weekend to the annual "Joshua's Bingo for a Cure" in Allentown, Pa., to benefit research into FOP, and Sally and I were honored to take part as our first Troop. The event went well, and we had a fantastic time. Trooping was everything I thought it would be, and then some!
However, wearing armor around the house during a build, no matter how many times you do it, just isn't the same as wearing armor Out There In Real Life. In the controlled conditions of your house or even walking around the yard you just don't experience the same things as you do at a real Troop. Now, I had all kinds of fears about the things that could go wrong (many of which I've read about happening to others), and I'm pleased to say that I escaped most of them. Here, then, a quick rundown of what didn't happen:
• I didn't step on any small people... but could have. At one point, when Sally was right next to me I was wondering who she was talking to. She finally had to tell me that the little kid that I had no idea was right in front of me wanted to give me a high-five. I bent over and sure enough, there he was. Yes, you really can't see anything low -- all those warnings about little people are true, and I'm glad I learned it in the first hour of my first Troop.
• I didn't suffocate. I had a bit of nervousness about the helmet. During the build it felt confining as hell whenever I put it on, and breathing was oddly compromised. My fears of passing out for lack of oxygen or tearing off my helmet in a claustrophobic fit, never happened. I found that after a half hour I got perfectly used to the confines of the bucket and am now fine with it.
• I didn't trip on my own feet and do a faceplant in front of 500+ bingo players, which I had a deathly fear would surely transpire.
• And finally, I didn't accidentally clock anyone with my E-11, I didn't sneeze inside my bucket, and nothing fell off to go clattering across the concrete floor in a bursting shower of white plastic shards.
That's what didn't happen. Here's what did:
Armor bites. Oh, Great Caesar's Ghost, the armor bites. I'd read about them and I was expecting them. And, sure enough, there were some minor ones here and there depending on how I moved. However, although unpleasant those were infrequent and random. But then, there was The Armor Bite. I hesitate to say where it was since there are ladies present, but you saw that picture up earlier? Nice picture, huh? Me and the missus lookin' great. But let's zoom in a bit, shall we...
Ohhhhhh, yeah. One of our handlers took that photo right after suiting up before we hit the floor, and I had no idea what was coming. We hadn't been out there for more than five minutes when I knew I had a serious issue. Nearly every step I took I got bitten at that spot, over and over and over again. After the first half hour I almost bailed out of the event to go call 911 in our dressing area, but wanted to do my best to tough it out (figuring that blood from the gaping wound I was surely creating would be hard to see on a black undersuit anyway), and gradually learned how to walk such that I could minimize the biting somewhat. Every other step, maybe, and sometimes only every third or fourth step. I spent the next 2-1/2 hours guarding the entrance or the snack area, anything to cut down on the walking. Still, by the end of the event I was a hurtin' puppy, and have a for-reals injury there that may take a few days and many medicinal beers to heal. Therefore, the new number one (with a bullet, natch) on my fix-it list as I continue my ongoing build is to trim both the left side of the Cod and the upper right edge of the Thigh to eliminate that. Other, less painful, things I also learned I need to fix include:
• My left Bicep. I had an issue when I did my submission photos with it coming unsnapped. (You may have seen that in my pre-approval thread.) I thought I had it taken care of, but it happened continuously. After the first half dozen times Sally or a handler resnapped it I gave up, and just kept my left arm crooked to keep everything up. No idea why that snap is an issue -- not having it with any other snap on my kit -- but I need to replace it.
• My helmet gradually kept tilting back. The balance isn't quite right and/or the padding needs adjusting. I had to occasionally step out of sight and pull the helmet forward so I could see. I think that redoing the pads will take care of most of that. Speaking of the helmet, I found that although I can easily turn my head all the way to the right, I can't turn it all the way to the left. Not sure why so I may need to do it in front of a mirror to see what's up. I think maybe my helmet is just a hair too low, and may need to increase the padding on the very top.
• Clicking Sniper Plate. Before Trooping, I added padding to the top/front of my left Shin and to the lower/back of the left Thigh to help prevent the Plate from getting caught. While that seemed to work, the Sniper Plate kept grazing the Thigh with every step with a loud *click* sound. (That was also the second-most-common source of occasional armor bites, on my knee.) That's a fix I have to make.
And finally, there are those two original things I already knew I needed to fix after my EIB review: the Back Plate corner overlaps, and the Shoulder Bells. For the first, I think some judicious trimming of remaining return edges will do the trick. For the second, tightening up those straps will help, and I'm thinking I may actually replace the Bells. Back when I originally trimmed them for fit, I hadn't yet seen the recommendations about trimming the sides of the Bells in a curve. (I think that may be a more recent accuracy recommendation.) In any event, I'll do the straps first but will consider replacing the Bells and trimming them more correctly.
And, of course, you'll see it all here.