For many years, the U.S. military has utilized challenge coins, sometimes referred to as unit coins. Typically at the battalion level or higher, unit leaders have unit coins with the unit crest and motto.These unit coins are usually presented for “acts of excellence.”
Once someone has been awarded a unit coin, they must keep it in their possession at all times. If someone “challenges” them, they must present their unit coin or to the other person. If they have the unit coin in their possession, the person that challenged them would buy them a drink. If they don’t have their unit coin on them, they would buy the person a drink.
Bottom line: keep your unit coin on you at all times.
In my 16 years of military service, I’ve seldom seen a company-level coin. That’s why I decided to have a company coin made for our unit. The cost was approximately $450 for 100 coins, which equals about $4.50 each.
I had our battalion crest on the front of the unit coin and a picture of a Spartan (our mascot) on the back, with our motto, “Never Defeated!”
The First Sergeant and I awarded these unit coins to Soldiers for different reasons. Some examples include: Soldier of the month, scoring a 300 on the APFT, graduating the Warrior Leader Course, getting promoted and many other reasons.
Our unit coins had a huge positive impact on unit morale. From time-to-time, one of my Soldiers would approach me with a smile on his or her face, and challenge me. They only caught me without my unit coin once. But, that was enough.
I’m writing this to tell you that you should get a unit coin, too. You should present them to your “high speed” soldiers when they do a good job. It will improve the morale of your unit and instill a sense of pride.
Although you will have to pay for the unit coins yourself, you can get creative and split the cost with your First Sergeant or ask your key leaders to chip in. The benefits far outweigh the costs.
To get started, all you need to do is visit a search engine and do a search for “challenge coin” or “unit coin.” You will find lots of companies that manufacture these coins. Your best bet is to shop around and get quotes from at least three different companies. Don’t be afraid to haggle or negotiate the price either. Most of these companies want your business and are willing to negotiate their prices.
It helps if you know what you want ahead of time. In other words, you should have a basic idea about the design, pictures, and wording. If you have a Soldier will excellent drawing skills, you can have her create a design for your coin.
Once you order the coins and have them in your possession, don’t make the common mistake of handing out your unit coins like Halloween candy. In other words, don’t give everyone a coin just for the sake of it. Be selective. Make it special. That way people look forward to receiving your unit coin.
Does your unit currently have unit coins? If you are the commander, it would be a great investment into the morale of your unit. If not, it would be a great thing to propose to your commander.
What are your thoughts about unit coins? Please post all questions and comments below.