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Challenge Coin

The Combating Terrorism coin created by the Defense Department's Special Operations-Combating Terrorism officeDuring the memorial service on 10 November 2009 for the victims of the tragedy at Fort Hood on 5 November 2009, President Barack Obama placed his Commander's Coin on each of the memorials erected for the victims.

Military challenge coins are also known as military coins, unit coins, memorial coins, unit challenge coins, or commander's coin. The coin represents affiliation, support or patronage to the organization minted on the coin. The challenge coin is a treasured and respected representation of the organization minted on the coin.

Commanders use specially minted military coins to improve morale, foster unit esprit and honor service members for their hard work. For instance, each quarter during a weekend drill, commanders in the 507th Air Refueling Wing, Air Force Reserve, present a Commander's Coin to unit reservists demonstrating dedication to the Air Force Core Values of Integrity First, Service Before Self, and Excellence in All We Do.

On 25 March 2001 NASCAR Winston Cup Series driver Elliott Sadler won the Food City 500 auto race at the Bristol Motor speedway, and said his good luck symbol will now be a four-star general's special bronze coin. The coin Gen. Lester Lyles, Air Force Materiel Command commander, gave him during a visit to the pit area just before the race started proved to be the good luck he needed to take his first victory in 75 starts, Sadler said.

Cpl. Stephen M. Roberts, machine gunner, B Co., 2nd Battalion, 187th Inf. Regt., received the battalion commander's coin for actions 19 January 2002 in reporting the activity of six unknown persons who were seen jettisoning from their vehicle to stake out the perimeter. The 187th Infantry Regiment had just replaced the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit on the perimeter of the Kandahar airport in Afghanistan. The unknown suspects were about 350 meters from the perimeter fence when Roberts spotted them. He called in to the radio telephone operators, or RTOs, who then sent out a patrol. The suspects escaped, but their planned mission was thwarted.

Challenge coin rules only apply to other individuals who also have a challenge coin. A holder of a challenge coin may "challenge" any individual who is known to have a coin. A challenge is made by withdrawing a coin and raising it in the air or by tapping it on a bar or table. The individual who is challenged is required to produce their coin within 60 seconds. If the individual produces the coin, the challenger is obligated to buy them a drink. If the challenged individual fails to produce the coin, they are obligated to buy the drink. The reward does NOT have to be an alcoholic beverage. It can be a soda or any other reward that the two individuals agree on. If a coin is dropped and it hits the floor, the ownder is obligated to buy drinks for anyone who hears or sees the coin hit the floor (provided they have their coin on them). Coin challengers are known to strike anywhere at anytime. They insidiously stalk the challenge, waiting for just the right moment to attack. An innocent bystander may never hear the challenge - only the challengee's despairing cry, "... Ah ____! I forgot mine!

The Combating Terrorism coin created by the Defense Department's Special Operations-Combating Terrorism officeAccording to one story, challenge coins originated during World War I. American volunteers from all parts of the country filled the newly formed flying squadrons. Some were wealthy scions attending colleges such as Yale and Harvard who quit in mid-term to join the war. In one squadron, a wealthy lieutenant ordered medallions struck in solid bronze and presented them to his unit. One young pilot placed the medallion in a small leather pouch that he wore about his neck. Shortly after acquiring the medallions, the pilots' aircraft was severely damaged by ground fire. He was forced to land behind enemy lines and was immediately captured by a German patrol. In order to discourage his escape, the Germans took all of his personal identification except for the small leather pouch around his neck. In the meantime, he was taken to a small French town near the front. Taking advantage of a bombardment that night, he escaped. However, he was without personal identification. He succeeded in avoiding German patrols by donning civilian attire and reached the front lines. With great difficulty, he crossed no-man's land. Eventually, he stumbled onto a French outpost. Unfortunately, saboteurs had plagued the French in the sector. They sometimes masqueraded as civilians and wore civilian clothes. Not recognizing the young pilot's American accent, the French thought him to be a saboteur and made ready to execute him. He had no identification to prove his allegiance, but he did have his leather pouch containing the medallion. He showed the medallion to his would-be executioners and one of his French captors recognized the squadron insignia on the medallion. They delayed his execution long enough for him to confirm his identity. Instead of shooting him they gave him a bottle of wine. Back at his squadron, it became tradition to ensure that all members carried their medallion or coin at all times. This was accomplished through challenge in the following manner - a challenger would ask to see the medallion. If the challenged could not produce a medallion, they were required to buy a drink of choice for the member who challenged them. If the challenged member produced a medallion, then the challenging member was required to pay for the drink. This tradition continued on throughout the war and for many years after the war while surviving members of the squadron were still alive.

According to another story, challenge coins originaged during the Vietnam War. Leisure time in Vietnam was a commodity, but when it came, it was utilized to the max; catching up on sleep; writing letters home; letting off steam at the hooch bar. The latter provided to be most popular, but eventually it too could become boring and mundane. To heighten excitement and foster unit esprit de corps, Bullet Clubs were formed. These were comprised of small, elite, front-line fighters who each carried a personalized bullet from the weapons they carried in combat. The ultimate use of the bullet, usually carried in a hip pocket, was to deny the enemy personal capture. When an individual entered the Hooch Bar, he would be challenged by fellow team members to produce his bullet. If he did, the challengers would pay his bar tab for the rest of the evening. If he failed to produce his bullet, he bought the drinks for all the remainder of the night. Eventually, personalized bullets took on disbelieving proportions. Some "teamies" took to carrying 20-, 40-, or 105mm cannon shells. Clearly, these were not personalized coup de grace munitions but rather manifestations of perceived individual prowess in combat or - perhaps - on R & R. At the height of the Bullet Club's heyday, it was not an uncommon sight to see strewn across a barroom table a very respectful representation of the full range of bullets, rockets, cannon and artillery shells used in Southeast Asia. In order to gain control of the situation - and to avoid accidental discharge of the large, fully functional munitions - bullets were traded for coins which reflected the unit's symbol and pride. Each coin was personalized by a controlled number and/or the individual's name. The rules remained the same, although today they are greatly expanded. Loss of one's coins was and remains tantamount to eternal disgrace and banishment. To forget to carry one's coin in anticipation of a challenge results in a minor death.

A new Combating Terrorism coin also raises funds for the children of special operations warriors who are killed in the line of duty. The coin project came out of the Special Operations- Combating Terrorism office in the Pentagon in the fall of 1999, well before Sept. 11, 2001. It was the office's way of spotlighting the Defense Department's role in the war on terror. The coin is available from Striking Impressions. The company donates 25 percent of the profit from the coin to the Special Operations Warrior Foundation. The foundation has established a fund to provide for the education of the sons and daughters of special operators killed in the line of duty. The DoD office is, of course, just one of the entities fighting the war on terrorism. The office allows legitimate agencies to use the eagle design with their own agency crests on the back. The State and Justice departments and various Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard units have taken up that offer.

Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers (BOSS) is a program that supports the overall quality of life for single soldier and unaccompanied soldiers. The BOSS program supports the chain of command by identifying quality of life (QOL) issues and concerns and by providing recommendations for QOL improvement. The BOSS program encourages and assists single soldiers in identifying and planning for recreational and leisure activities. It provides and opportunity for single soldiers to participate in contributes to their respective communities. The BOSS program is separate and distinct from the major Army command (MACOM) Single Soldiers Initiatives program or any similar program in that the BOSS program provides an avenue for single soldiers to surface issues and take part in activities but does not set policy and other guidance on issues. The BOSS program is intended to enhance command authority, prerogative, and responsibility in maintaining standards of conduct, good order, and discipline, not to dilute.

Click on either image for a larger view of the coin




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