Air Force Challenge Coins

Jesse Daugherty - Aug 14, 2019
Air Force Challenge Coins

Air Force coins are quite sought-after mementos of a U.S. Air Force career. For many, the meaningful coin they will receive during their Air Force enlistment is the first one they receive. The Airman’s Coin is presented to recruits who successfully complete Air Force Basic Military Training.

The coin is presented at its own ceremony at the end of 8.5 weeks of grueling training, marking an important milestone in the process. Receiving it marks the transition from trainee to Airman. It’s a distinction that’s hard-won and well deserved.

The official Airman’s Coin features the United States Air Force Symbol, which is a stylized pair of wings with a star in the center and three diamonds beneath. This symbol is found in dark blue on the front of the coin. Encircling the image are the words “Awarded on the occasion of becoming an Airman in the world’s best Air Force.” The reverse side features a similar star with wings and a red center dot, known as a “Hap Arnold star.” This design is encircled by the Air Force Core Values, which are represented by the three diamonds on the front: “Integrity First, Service Before Self, Excellence In All We Do.”

From the moment they arrive at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, Air Force trainees start a rigorous process to develop discipline, teamwork, and leadership skills. Dubbed, BMT (Basic Military Training), this period requires intense physical and mental exertion to learn the duties required.

It's no wonder that trainees often regard this phase of their Air Force term as the most challenging, and in many cases, the most rewarding. BMT is comprised of an increasing series of exercises and experienced design to create unit camaraderie, build physical fitness quickly, and teach decision-making and survival skills. All of which is an essential element of the making of Airmen.

These elements are why Air Force coins are an ideal way to commemorate. The week considered the most difficult is the sixth week of training, known as “BEAST Week.” This word is an acronym for "Basic Expeditionary Airman Skills Training.”

It's a simulated combat deployment entirely run by the trainees. They are responsible for defending their position from simulated air, ground, and even suicide bomber attacks. The simulated situations include attacks at any time of day or night, full-body armor at all times, and simulated chemical/biological warfare attacks that require gas masks and protective gear.

All meals are the standard-issue MREs (Meals, Ready to Eat). The trainees learn how to handle just about any combat situation, including detection and avoidance of improvised explosive devices. The finale of BMW marks the beginning of Graduation Week.

The trainees are each presented with their Airman’s Coin at an official Airman’s Coin Ceremony. Friends and family members are invited to attend, and many do. Upon receiving the coin, recipients know they are no longer trainees and have earned the right to call themselves Airmen.

While an Airman’s term of enlistment will contain many more milestones and more custom Air Force coins, few things match the satisfaction of knowing they successfully completed BMT. This is a significant moment in the career of an Airman, marking the transition from civilian to a valued member of the U.S. Air Force.