Gotta catch 'em all! Commander's coins

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Jeffrey Parkinson
  • 1st Special Operations Wing Public Affairs
They're collectable, can be shown off and their details and colors are often admired. To collect them all can be a feat that can take years. And with every new one acquired, people believe the rare and most desirable ones are just within reach.

These aren't cards or stamps; they're commanders' coins.

The origins behind them vary, but, according to an article on, a story dates back to World War I. An officer gave bronze medallions with the flying squadrons' insignia on them to his men. Shortly after, a flying ace was shot down over Germany and captured. Everything on his person was taken, except a small leather pouch around his neck containing the medallion.

When the pilot escaped and made his way back to France, he was accused of being a spy by allied sympathizers and sentenced to execution. The pilot, in a last effort to prove his identity, presented the medallion. A French soldier recognized the insignia and confirmed his identity.

This may not be the first official "coin challenge," but it may be the genesis into what has now become a morale-boosting tradition.

"It promotes camaraderie, esprit de corps," said Master Sgt. Charles Mann, 1st Special Operations Comptroller Squadron first sergeant. "Commanders from all levels present Airmen with coins, but the intent and purpose behind it is to recognize those who have gone above and beyond and performed an excellent service or act. It's their way of saying 'Thank you, congratulations; I appreciate what you've done. Here's my coin.' And that means a lot coming from someone higher ranking."

Staff Sgt. Jacob Josleyn, a vehicle operator/dispatcher of 1st Special Operations Logistics Readiness Squadron, echoed Mann's sentiments on the significance of the coin.

"When I get coined, I take it to heart," Josleyn said. "It shows me that someone of higher rank appreciated what I just did for them, and I know that I did a great job."

While many collect challenge coins as a presentation of their accomplishments, they may cherish some coins more than others.

"The most important coin to me right now is my first sergeant coin, because becoming a first sergeant is a milestone that not everybody achieves in their career," Mann said. "Getting to be a first sergeant and having this coin mean a lot to me."

Some coins may be harder to come by, such as the installation commander's coin. So how does one receive such a coin?

"We reward and recognize mission accomplishment, especially during difficult situations where an Air Commando exercises sound judgment, innovation and creativity," said Col. William West, commander of 1st Special Operations Wing.

No matter how elusive some commander's coins may seem, many Airmen will continue to pursue them not only for collecting, but as an acknowledgment of a job well done.