The Number Of Challenge Coins That Are Passed Out Is Too Damn High

Vultures' Row

The origins of the challenge coin have been lost to antiquity. It’s really anyone’s guess as to how these trinkets came about. 


But what isn’t a guess is that the number of coins being presented today IS TOO DAMN HIGH. Just like with real money, if you make too much of it, the value goes way down. The inflation rate for challenge coins is worse than Reichsmark in Weimar Germany, and we all know how great that worked out.

Some time ago, if you got a challenge coin from a commanding officer, people thought of it as something of a score. That was before coins became like Beanie Baby collectibles for the moto set. Grown men put them in display cases, apparently under the delusion that someone, anyone, gives a shit about their hobby. Just like Beanie Babies, no one cares which ones you have or how you got them.

That’s especially true now that everyone from cops to cabinet secretaries has coins. There are few things less cherished than coins from a civilian agency. Civilian coins are a tradition with about as much history and intellectual integrity as Milli Vanilli. “Oh, tell me about the fabled battle history of the Environmental Protection Agency, Mr. Secretary.”

A standard coin is now less valuable than a POG from an overseas PX. That’s why so many of them have started to incorporate customized shapes and functions, usually a bottle opener. You know what also works really well as a bottle opener? A bottle opener.

The other track is to make the coin exceptionally weighty and huge. Making an otherwise perfectly ordinary item ludicrously huge is, as in most things, compensating for other shortcomings. Witness the cavalcade of faux-gold monstrosities that are the challenge coins of the Trump administration.

It’s time to get a damn handle on the coin situation. There is no Federal Reserve to control the supply, so grassroots action needs to happen.

The history of the challenge coins dates back to World War II, when an American pilot was shot down and captured in Germany. His identity was proven and life saved when he revealed a bronze medallion, with his flying squadron emblem.

Since the military is what originally set the stage for “peak coin,” the military has to be the institution that kills it.

First, senior leaders need to get the hell over themselves. Unless you’re a general or an admiral, you don’t need a personal coin, and even then, think really hard about it. If you’re a civilian and your title doesn’t start with “Secretary of” and end with “Defense” or the name of a military branch, then just sit your ass down.

Second, if you are one of those senior leaders, don’t hand your coins out every time you come in contact with the common folk, like drunks at Mardi Gras throwing beads at topless women. A coin as an informal attaboy for something not quite award-worthy is a great thing. Giving them to every pilot or MRAP driver who drops your fat ass off at a FOB is just patronizing. Save them for something memorable. The recipient will probably still throw it in the trash, but at least try to keep up appearances and set the tone for subordinates.

Third, as a now civilian who sometimes works with the military, I’ve realized that corporations need to choose different trinkets than coins to hand out. Coins seem cool, but corporate coins are really only a pale imitation of a legitimate military tradition. Patches, t-shirts, branded condoms… Anything other than coins is a better corporate giveaway.

"If you’re a civilian and your title doesn’t start with 'Secretary of' and end with 'Defense' or the name of a military branch, then just sit your ass down."

Any of those — perhaps especially the condoms — will get far better name recognition down the road than coins whose only purpose is to pad out peoples’ absurdly overdone coin display cases. Take those coins and give them to your children, cats, some US Presidents, or anyone else obsessed with worthless shiny objects.

Fourth, bring coins back to basics. Officers and NCOs should be going to their clubs with their actual unit coins and challenging people to produce theirs. That is the foundation and only real value of the coin tradition. Buying drinks for each other can help build group and unit cohesion.  That’s the reason everyone is here in the first place. It’s what coins are for.

Lastly, I don’t endorse hazing. But, if anyone answers a challenge at a bar with a coin bought at the PX, all bets are off. I don’t even know what the business model is for selling coins that say “Second Lieutenant” or “Lance Corporal” on them, but I do know that both are clueless, lonely, and really, really sad.

Somewhere between apathy and obsession is the right attitude in any endeavor. Coins are no different. Save them for when they’re actually worth it, and everyone will be better off.

Airman 1st Class Deana Heitzman
(Photo: CNN/screenshot)

NAVAL BASE SAN DIEGO — A Navy SEAL sniper on Wednesday contradicted earlier testimony of fellow SEALs who claimed he had fired warning shots to scare away civilian non-combatants before Chief Eddie Gallagher shot them during their 2017 deployment to Mosul, and said he would not want to deploy again with one of the prosecution's star witnesses.

Special Operator 1st Class Joshua Graffam originally invoked his Fifth Amendment privilege before Navy Judge Capt. Aaron Rugh gave him immunity in order to compel his testimony.

Graffam testified that Gallagher was essentially justified in the shooting of a man he is accused of unlawfully targeting, stating that "based off everything i had seen so far ... in my opinion, they were two shitheads moving from one side of the road to the other."

Spotting for Gallagher in the tower that day, Graffam said, he called out the target to him and he fired. He said the man was hit in the upper torso and ran away.

Graffam, who joined the Navy in 2010 and has been assigned to SEAL Team 7's Alpha Platoon since September 2015, deployed alongside Gallagher to Mosul in 2017, occasionally acting as a spotter for Gallagher when the SEALs were tasked with providing sniper support for Iraqi forces from two towers east of the Tigris River.

Another SEAL, Special Warfare Operator 1st Class Dalton Tolbert, had previously testified under direct examination by prosecutors that, while stationed in the south tower of a bombed-out building in June 2017, he had observed Gallagher shoot and kill an elderly civilian.

"He ran north to south across the road," Tolbert testified on Friday. "That's when I saw the red mark on his back and I saw him fall for the first time. Blood started to pool and I knew it was a square hit in the back." Over the radio, he said he heard Gallagher tell the other snipers, "you guys missed him but I got him."

Former SO1 Dylan Dille, who was also in the south tower that day, testified last week that he watched an old man die from a sniper shot on Father's Day. He said the date stuck out in his mind because he thought the man was probably a father.

Later that day, after the mission, Graffam said he spoke with Dille about the shooting and they disagreed about the circumstances. Dille, he said, believed the man was a noncombatant.

"I, on the other hand, was confident that the right shot was taken," Graffam said, although he said later under cross-examination that the man was unarmed. Dille previously testified that the SEALs were authorized to shoot unarmed personnel if they first received signals intelligence or other targeting information.

Photo: Paul Szoldra/Task & Purpose

Graffam described the man as a male between 40 and 50 years old wearing black clothing, giving him the impression of an ISIS fighter who was moving in a "tactical" manner. He testified that he did not see anything like Dille had described.

Graffam further testified that he didn't see Gallagher take any shots that he shouldn't have on that day or any other.

Although Graffam said he did not hear of allegations that Gallagher had stabbed a wounded ISIS fighter on deployment, he testified that he started to hear rumblings in early 2018. Chief Craig Miller, he said, asked him at one point whether he would "cooperate" with others in reporting him.

When asked whether he would like to serve with Miller again in a SEAL platoon, Graffam said, "I don't feel as confident about it." A member of the jury later asked him why he'd feel uncomfortable deploying with Miller and he responded, "I just wouldn't."

Graffam said he would serve with Gallagher again if given the chance.

Under cross examination by prosecutors, Graffam said he couldn't say whether there were warning shots fired that day, though Dille and Tolbert both said happened. "There were multiple shots throughout the day," Graffam said.

Prosecutors also asked him about his previous statements to NCIS, in which Graffam said of Miller that "he has good character" and was "a good guy." Graffam confirmed he said just that.

Defense attorney Tim Parlatore, however, said those statements were back in January and "a lot had happened since then." Parlatore said Graffam had also said at the time that Gallagher was a good leader.

"That part remains unchanged, correct?" Parlatore asked.

"Yes," Graffam said.

The defense is expected to call more witnesses in the case, which continues on Thursday.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Alexi Myrick)

The U.S. military is seeing an increase in sexually transmitted infections such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis in part due to dating apps, according to the Military Health System.

"There appears to be an increase in high-risk behaviors among service members; that is, having sex without a condom or having more than one sexual partner," Air Force physician Maj. Dianne Frankel said in a news release.

Read More Show Less

Three Marines killed in a December plane crash are finally coming home.

Five Marines aboard a KC-130J Hercules and one Marine on an F/A-18 Hornet were killed when both planes went down about 200 miles off the Japanese coast.

A recent salvage operation of the KC-130J crash site recovered the remains of three of the Marines, who were later identified, Corps officials said.

Read More Show Less
(YouTube via Air Force Times)

Editor's Note: This article by Oriana Pawlyk originally appeared on Military.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

The Air Force is investigating an airman after he posted a video on YouTube rife with homophobic slurs and insults.

A man in an Air Force uniform, identified only by the YouTube username "Baptist Dave 1611" ranted in a recent video, calling gay people "sodomites," "vermin scum," and "roaches" among other slurs, according to Air Force Times, which first reported the story Wednesday.

"The specifics of the situation are being reviewed by the airman's command team," said service spokesman Maj Nick Mercurio, confirming the incident. Mercurio did not provide any identifying details about the airman.

Read More Show Less

Two U.S. troops were killed in Afghanistan on Wednesday, defense officials have announced.

Operation Resolute Support issued a terse news release announcing the latest casualties that did not include any information about the circumstances of their deaths.

Read More Show Less