By Staff Sgt. Amber Grimm
21st Space Wing Public Affairs
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — A knight, armor shining in the sun, clinks and clanks his way across a field. Beneath the gleaming, hardened shell beats the heart of an Airman.
Staff Sgt. Gary Christensen, 21st Logistics Readiness Squadron noncommissioned officer in charge of deployment operations, has been passionate about all things medieval for a long time. Whether it’s playing themed video games, Dungeons and Dragons, Magic the Gathering or even going for full authenticity while dressing up as a knight at renaissance festivals, if it’s medieval, he is into it.
“I’ve always been interested in the medieval atmosphere and lifestyle,” said Christensen. “I spent about seven years gathering the different items for my costume.”
When dressing in his full knight costume, Christensen dons a long shirt of chainmail called a hauberk and a hood made of chainmail, known as a coif. Next, he adds solid pieces, including the gorget, which is a piece of metal that covers the neck, and pauldrons, which are giant shoulder pieces. His arms are covered with bracers and greaves cover the lower legs. He also wears a sleeveless short coat, called a tabard over the armor. Rounding out the ensemble is a helmet, belted sword and a shield.
All together the entire costume weighs roughly 65-70 pounds, though Christensen insists it doesn’t feel that heavy when he’s wearing it. His armor set is so authentic he is often mistaken for a member of the cast when he wears it to renaissance festivals. The armor especially comes in handy in Colorado weather, said Christensen. One particular weekend at a fair found him walking unscathed through a hail storm. While everyone else took shelter, he was hail proof.
Ever since word got out that he had his own real, steel armor, Christensen has been asked to occasionally bring authenticity to the role of “Mike the Knight,” the 21st Space Wing’s mascot.
“A few times when I’ve brought my stuff in to do Mike the Knight, people were like ‘I had no idea you did this stuff,’” said Christensen. “Then of course everyone wants to try on the helmet and play with the sword.”
Christensen played “Mike the Knight” for numerous events including parades, activities at the base chapel and The Club, in addition to accompanying Col. Doug Schiess, 21st SW commander, to represent the wing at an Air Force Academy award ceremony.
In between studying for promotion, working toward applying for officer training school and being a family man, Christensen doesn’t always have time to pursue his hobby. While he still asserts that career, dreams and aspirations rate higher than any pastime, he takes full advantage of the opportunity to throw on the armor in the course of his duty to play “Mike the Knight.”
“I get to dress up in what I enjoy,” said Christensen. “Having a mascot that coincides with my passion is perfect. It brings both of my worlds together.”