Unit Coins

Army Unit Challenge CoinFor 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.


9 thoughts on “Unit Coins”

  1. Very cool idea! I was given a challenge coin about a year ago from a friend who graduated OCS in the Navy (sorry if this is not the proper designation, no offense intended!). It features a ship on the front, and a war hog on the back – an awesome design, in my opinion. It meant a lot (even from a non-military person) to be given such a thing – and the history of the coins in general is even more interesting!

  2. Personally, I've never been a huge fan of the unit coins, but they can be very useful for morale. They are particularly useful when a commander wants to give thanks to one of their troops. If a group does a great job on a project a unit coin is a great reward.

  3. Leila Besner

    I think every unit, all the way down to the company level, should have their own unit coins. It’s great for morale.

  4. Katelyn Hensel

    I love the idea of unit coins. I mentioned on a previous post of yours how much morale affects soldiers not only when on active duty, but later on in their lives as well.

    It sounds like the benefits were huge for your unit. I feel like it would increase competition in the unit and would therefore add an increased incentive to do well. Bringing up the morale of your unit, plus improving upon the excellence that they no doubt showed before. Can’t get much better than that.

    1. Thanks Kate.

      Unit coins are great. Purchasing coins with my own money and having them for my Soldiers was a very wise decision during my time in Company Command. The coins had a great impact on morale within our unit. It was money well spent!


  5. I love reading about these little inside things about the military. Your recommendation to come up with your own unit coin is there is not already one is a great idea. It is super for morale, recognizing a good job and also good for some fun if you can get a beer out of someone for not having their coin on them.

  6. I would say that the most personal coin I ever received was from the Armor School Brigade Commander. When I graduated Basic Training and earned my EIA (Excellence in Armor) he was there to greet me with a handshake and a coin in the form of a Tank Sprocket. I still have that coin today. Big impression on me as a young Soldier. Imagine what a unique coin could do for one of your young Soldiers.

    1. Great story, Justin. I received a lot of challenge coins during my 15 years in the military, about 100 coins in all, but only 3-5 had a real sentimental meeting. My favorite coin was the one I received from my Battalion Commander while I was serving in the 64th Forward Support Battalion. I worked really hard to get that coin and my Battalion Commander was the best leader I ever served with while I was in the military. So I keep that one stored in a secret place.

      Thanks for sharing your story.


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