5 Facts About Air Force Challenge Coins

Jesse Daugherty - Oct 27, 2020
5 Facts About Air Force Challenge Coins

The military has long used challenge coins as a way to celebrate extraordinary achievements. These mementos hold a special place in every enlisted person’s heart, as they are a tangible reminder of the courage, bravery, and dedication shown throughout their career.

Military challenge coins are a timeless honor and tradition. Receiving a challenge coin is recognition for the merit of something you have done.

In the Air Force, the Airman's Coin has a rich history. It's a special coin for any Airman who receives it.

Leaders and commanders present custom challenge coins as a way to commemorate a special honor. The Airman's Coin is no exception, boasting a deep tradition of history and honor. Here are five facts about the Airman's Coin and the tradition behind it. 

The First Step 

For Air Force trainees, the Airman’s Coin is the very first challenge coin they receive, presented at the completion of  basic training. The Air Force has a special coin ceremony in which trainees receive their coins and take the first step in their Air Force career. 

The coin is one of the most prominent coins of an Airman's career. The Airman's Coin is usually presented by the Wing Commander or Command Chief Master Sergeant. Upon receiving the coin, trainees are then known officially as Airmen, their first official rank. (Note: Airman is the Air Force term for both men and women.)

The Challenge of Challenge Coins 

Once an Airman receives a coin, they must keep it on them at all times. The challenge aspect comes into play during a "challenge" or "coin check." 

This means that anyone can ask all the other members present at the time to show their coins. Anyone who can't show their coin immediately has to buy the challenger a drink. However, if everyone has their coins, the challenger has to buy a round of drinks for the unit.

It's All In The Technique 

Awarding a challenge coin is more than simply handing the coin to the recipient. The Air Force challenge coin tradition follows a traditional U.S. military challenge coin protocol.

The Airman Coin is exchanged from the presenter to the recipient through a firm handshake. The coin is initially in the palm of the presenter’s hand and is transferred during the handshake. An observer might not even know the presentation has taken place.

Follow The Rules

Like any tradition, challenge coins come with their own rules. The Airman's Coin comes with its own unique set. For example, you must carry your coin at all times. Anyone with a coin can initiate a coin check at any time, including in the shower.

Do not ever give someone else your coin in response to a challenge, and there are no exceptions to the rules. Being presented with an Airman's Coin or other Air Force challenge coin is an honor and a responsibility.

Getting More Coins 

While the Airman's Coin is the first and likely most significant coin for Airmen, it's not the only one. Airmen may be presented with other coins throughout their Air Force careers. 

Any higher ranking officer from First Sergeant to Commander in Chief may present a challenge coin to an Airman they deem deserving. The collection of an Airman's challenge coins will tell you the story of his or her career. They are tangible reminders of milestones and important moments in one's career.