5 Interesting Facts about Air Force Coins

5 Interesting Facts about Air Force Coins

The tradition of military challenge coins has an interesting history. Though the time for its origin can’t be exactly traced, one of the interesting stories regarding the origin of challenge coins dates back to World War II.

Air Force challenge coins or Airman’s coins as is popularly known, is a type of military challenge coin and like all military coins, they are an object of honor and tradition. The United States Air Force coin is given to airmen at their Air Force graduation as a symbol of their accomplishments by some higher in rank officials and for most, this first coin is the most important coin they receive throughout their service.

The Airman’s coin is a way to honor someone’s achievements and has a deep place for everyone receiving it. Here are some interesting facts about Air Force coins and the tradition of military challenge coins.

1. Becoming an Airman from a Trainee

The Airman’s coin is presented to those who successfully complete their Basic Military Training. There’s a particular coin ceremony in which the trainees receive their coins.

As mentioned, this coin, the first they receive, is the most significant coin for most airmen. Typically, the Wing Commander or Command Chief Master Sergeant present this coin to the trainees and once they receive their coins, they are no longer called trainee, but an airman.

2. Technique of Giving a Coin

The military challenge coins are awarded and not simply handed over. And there’s a tradition in the technique of giving it too. Like all military challenge coins, USAF coins too follow the same protocol. The coin sits in the palms of the commander’s hand and is passed from the giver to the receiver during a strong handshake.

3. Design of Airman’s Coin and its Versions

The original version of the Air Force coin has an eagle clawing its way out of the coin on one side. The words “Aerospace Power” is beneath the eagle and the words “Awarded on the occasion of becoming an airman in the world’s best Air Force” are seen at the edges, circling the whole image.

The reverse of the coin features a Hap Arnold star, a white star with a red dot in it and it is seen to be flanked by a pair of wings. The symbol is circled by the text core values of the Air Force: Integrity First, Service Before Self, Excellence In All We Do.

The USAF coins issued today have a completely different design with the new USAF symbol in place of the eagle. The color too is dark blue compared to a lighter blue of the original version.

4. What are the Challenges

From the moment an airman receives a coin, they are required to keep it with them at all times and show it when challenged. It’s more of an informal rule, and though the consequences of not being able to show their coins are not severe, it often is the challenge itself.

During a challenge or “coin check,” anyone can ask all other members to produce their coins. Any member who can’t immediately show their coins has to buy the challenger a drink. If everybody shows their coins, it’s up to the challenger to buy a drink for the unit.

5. Rules of Challenge Coins

As with many other military traditions, USAF coins too come with a set of rules to be followed. Some of them are:

  • You must explain the rules when given a coin
  • You are expected to carry your coin at all times
  • Do not ever hand over a coin in response to some challenge
  • Replace a lost coin as soon as possible, it’s your responsibility
  • These rules have no exceptions
  • Do not carry your challenge coin like a piece of jewelry. Carry it, don’t wear it.

The United States Air Force coin or the Airman’s coin is a military tradition marking one’s achievements and accomplishments. These coins carry a rich tradition in themselves and marks and honor the journey of an airman from trainee to all the great achievements they make in their career.