Challenge Coins for the 173rd Airborne Brigade
(as of now there are 42 of them)
# 00, This (above) coin 1971 near Phu Cat to Leon Green D-4/503
# 01, Chapter XI (Down Under Chapter) 2001
# 02, Chapter XI (Down Under Chapter) 2004 - Gold color
# 03, Chapter XI (Down Under Chapter) 2004 - Silver color
# 04, Chapter XVII (Midwest Chapter) 2002
# 05, Chapter IX New England
# 06, Special coin by Roger M. Brodin & Donated by David Lewis 2000
# 07, This is an oldest of the US coins (Before 1977)
# 08, This was available at the 82nd Museum in the early 80's
# 09, This is the Official coin issued by the Brigade June 2000
# 10, Society of the 173rd Airborne Brigade, Presidents coin
# 11, The most common coin on market, available; ArtsMilitaria.com
# 12, Old commercial coin (Colored)
# 13, Old commercial coin (non-Colored)
# 14, Old commercial coin (Colored)
# 15, Old commercial coin (non-Colored)
# 16, Rose Coin 2003- Silver
# 17, Rose Coin 2003- Bronze
# 18, 2/503rd Coin - 173rd Today
# 19, New Commercial, Iraq Coin 2003
# 20, Airborne Museum 2001, The word Brigade is misspelled on back
# 21, Reunion Coin 1999 (Fort Bragg, NC)
# 22, Reunion Coin 1996 (Anaheim, CA)
# 23, Special Medic Coin Designed by Seamus Bradley C-1/508th, 2004
# 24, Special Medic Coin 1/503rd Inf, developed by Don Dali 2001
# 25, The Casper Platoon coin, 2003
# 26, Reunion Coin 2004, Daytona Beach, Florida
# 27, Reunion Coin 2003 (Reno, NV)
# 28, 2/503rd Florida get together, Cocoa Beach, 2002
# 29, Reunion Coin 2001 (Fort Worth, TX)
# 30, Reunion Coin 2000 (Rochester, MN)
# 00, Reunion Coin 2005, never issued
# 31, 173rd Airborne Brigade award for excellence, 2005
# 32, 74th Infantry, Long Range Surveillance, 173rd Airborne, 2004
# 33, Chapter 173, Vicenzia, Italy, 2005
# 34, Commercial coin, all wars, made by chapter 7, 2006
# 35, Unit coin, 1st Bn, 503rd INF, 2005
# 36, Medal of Honor, Al Roscon, HHC 1/503rd, 2006
# 37, 2/503 gathering, Coco beach, FL 2006
# 38, A troop, 1st Squadron, 91st Cavalry 2006
# 39, Company C (C-med), Support Bn (Abn) 2006
# 40, Support Bn (ABN) 2006
# 41, 1st Squadron, 91st Cavalry 2006
# 42, SETAF, Commanding General 2006
If any one has history on any of these coins or a different one, please contact me at webmaster@173rdAirborne.com
If you have a coin different then the above contact me
History of the Challenge Coin
During World War 1, 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 pilotsí 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.
We proudly continue this tradition today with the challenge coin.
Coining a Tradition
Coins are as diverse as the units that present them.
Within days of his liberation from a prisoner of war camp, Sgt. Troy Dunlap received two Iraqi coins from an employee of the hotel where he and the other U.S. POWs were being housed by the Red Cross following their release. "One for you and one for me," he told Maj. Rhonda Cornum who also had been taken prisoner when their UH-60 helicopter was shot down by members of Saddam Hussein's Republican Guard during Operation Desert Storm. "We joked that we could use them like military coins. ... We planned how we would use the Iraqi money to 'coin' our friends when we got back to Fort Rucker," Cornum wrote in her book, "She Went to War." "Coining" is a relatively new U.S. military tradition, but has roots in the Roman Empire, where coins were presented to reward achievements.
In the U.S. military, the tradition goes back to the early 1960s. A member of the 11th Special Forces Group took old coins, had them over stamped with a different emblem, then presented them to unit members, according to Roxanne Merritt, curator of the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Museum at Fort Bragg, N.C. A former commander of the 10th S.F. Group picked up on the idea, becoming the first to mint a unit coin for a U.S. military unit. The 10th Group remained the only Army unit with its own coin until the mid-1980s, Merritt said, when "an explosion took place and everybody started minting coins."
Originally, the coins, which bear the unit crest on the front and whatever design the unit wants on the back, were given out by commanders and sergeants major to recognize outstanding acts performed by soldiers in the course of duty. "They're a real morale booster," said Duvall, "and tell the soldier, 'you're a member of our unit' which builds unit cohesion. The soldiers carry their credit card, driver's license and unit coin - their wallets are permanently deformed." Don Phillips, a former commander of the 20th S.F. Group, designed a coin for his unit and presented it to his soldiers when he retired.
"Another unit asked me to make a coin for them, and then another, so I went into business making them," said Phillips. To date, Phillips has made coins for "between 600 and 700 units." The tradition has spread to the other services and is even being adopted by paramilitary units like the U.S. Marshall's S.W.A.T. team, according to Phillips.
The proliferation of coins and their availability to the general public in post gift shops has caused Dr. Joseph Fisher, Special Operations Command historian, to view them as "not as special as they used to be; there are so many of them out there now." But that doesn't stop Fisher from carrying his with him at all times. Making the coins available for purchase has added yet another dimension to the tradition - collecting. S.M.A. Richard A. Kidd has approximately 300 of the coins on display in his office "museum." He has even issued an open invitation to soldiers visiting the Washington, D.C., area to stop by his office "even when I'm not here" to see his collection of unit memorabilia.
According to Phillips, World War II soldiers were given a coin when they mustered out of the service. But it wasn't until the Vietnam era that a "challenge-response" was added to the tradition of giving unit members a coin. The initial challenge was to prove membership in a particular unit by producing the unit coin. That was followed by the addition of the requirement to "buy a round" if a soldier didn't have the coin. "Buying a round isn't the only challenge these days," said Phillips. "Drinking is frowned on, so the challenge can be anything. If you don't have your coin, you get the detail."
Kidd still uses the original premise in distributing coins and carries some with him whenever he travels. "It's a way to immediately recognize above- and- beyond- the- call-of-duty actions on the part of a soldier when you're in the field," said Kidd.
Soldiers Magazine, Aug 94 Vol 49, No 8, Story by Maj. Jeanne Fraser
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as of1 October 2004