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
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
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