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U.S. Army Special Forces
"The Green Berets"

Special Forces Traditions: The "Coin Check" 

The U.S. Army Special Forces have a longstanding list of traditions dating back over their thirty-one-year history, from the wearing of the green beret. endorsed by President John F. Kennedy in 1961, to annual historic celebrations in which they take part. There are celebrations such as Menton Day, commemorating the joint U.S. & Canadian First Special Service Force of World War Two. The Special Forces also pay their respects to late President Kennedy by laying a wreath and green beret on his tomb every November twenty-second, the date of his assassination. One of the lesser-known traditions of the Special Forces is the Group coin.

Among elite units. the tradition is prevalent to carry some type of device which readily identifies unit members. past and present, and also provides the opportunity for an inspection of the unit's esprit de corps and purpose.

The Group coin, minted In a number of metals, including sterling, is approximately two Inches in diameter. The coin carries the mottos or slogans of the particular Group manufacturing it. In addition to any official motto is usually a likeness of the group flash, SF crest, and the beret.

Nearly every Special Forces unit has minted its own version of the Group coin; however, the 10th Special Forces Group can be credited with fostering the tradition for a Group coin. In July 1969, Colonel Vernon E. Green, Group commander, designed and had manufactured the 10th Group coin. On the obverse, or front, is the inscription: "10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) 1st Special Forces." In the center of the coin is the Trojan Horse crest, the original SF crest worn during the 1950s, and below, the words "Trojan Horse." The reverse side is inscribed with the Special Forces motto "De Oppresso Liber" and "The Best." A beret with flash is centered over a scroll for engraving the owner's name or job specialty, e.g., team sergeant, or light weapons leader. Nearly all Group coins have a scroll or such place for engraving.

Once the 10th Group coin was minted, the tradition began, calling for each Group member, past and present, to procure and carry a coin at all times. In addition to active or former Group personnel owning coins, they have been presented to friends and foreign Special Forces soldiers at the close of joint country training, as mementos.

The actual history of the challenge initiated by one SF Man to another by demanding to see his Group coin varies greatly. According to legend, the original coin check was done only by the senior man present (usually the team sergeant), who did it for the sole purpose of ensuring each man's team spirit (in which case, all would be carrying a coin). The purpose of this drill was to check morale.

Nowadays this is done primarily a dare, by extracting the coin and slamming it down onto the tabletop or tossing it to the floor. The loud "ping!" produced by the bounding coin is a challenge all SF types present to produce their coins, or end up buying a round of drinks. This method of the "coin check" is the most prevalent today.

There have been many attempts by the active SF groups to established a set of rules for the coin challenge to ensure uniformity. Regardless of any "coin regulation," most SF prefer to carry their coins, not only to show their pride with Special Forces, but also to save money on drinks they may have to buy if caught without it.

Adapted from an article by Lyle Hunger, U. S. Army Special Forces



This page is an unofficial document and does not represent information endorsed by the United States Government, the United States Special Operations Command or the United States Army Special Operations Command. However, most information is derived from those sources and has been checked for accuracy. For comments, questions, and suggestions, please go to the Communications Center.

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