At Code Platoon, we think of our students as a team. To signify their membership, each graduate receives a challenge coin. A challenge coin is a small coin or medallion, bearing an organization’s emblem and carried by its members. Traditionally, they might be used to prove membership or to boost morale. The coins have become an important symbol of recognition in our U.S. military and us at Code Platoon.
Code Platoon awards each graduate a commemorative challenge coin to signify the completion of their class. While these are a small token of their membership to Code Platoon, challenge coins have an important legacy that we are proud to continue.
While some people say that challenge coins date back to the Roman Empire, they have especially played a prominent part in U.S. military service recognition since the Vietnam War. Rumor has it that Army’s 10th infantry created the first coins from this era, but no one knows for sure. Those first coins were little more than common currency with the unit’s insignia stamped on one side. But the men in those units carried them with pride.
The use of challenge coins in the military served a greater purpose than mere recognition. The coins were a lot safer than the previous alternative—bullet clubs, whose members carried a single unused bullet at all times. These bullets were given as a reward for surviving a mission. Of course, having a bullet was little more than a show of masculinity, so what started as a handgun or M16 rounds soon escalated to .50 caliber bullets, anti-aircraft rounds, and even artillery shells to one-up each other.
Unfortunately, when these bullet club members presented “The Challenge” to each other in bars, it meant they were slamming live ammunition down on their tables. Worried that a deadly accident might occur, commanders banned the artillery and replaced it with limited edition Special Forces coins instead. Soon enough, nearly every unit had its own coin, with some even minting commemorative versions for incredibly hard-fought battles. Only those who lived to tell the tale received these unique coins.
Challenge coin traditions have climbed to the highest ranks of the military. In 2011, Robert M. Gates, then the United States defense secretary, shook hands with United States troops in Afghanistan, passing a challenge coin to each of them as a token of gratitude.
While not all military coins are awarded with a handshake, it has become a strong tradition.
The Code Platoon challenge coin, pictured above, is presented with a handshake to each Bootcamp graduate, albeit a virtual handshake during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Code Platoon challenge coins have been awarded to each of our 12 platoons. 120 Veteran and military spouses proudly carry their challenge coins, a symbol of success in graduating from Code Platoon. Code Platoon has more coins to award to future graduates. Could you be one of them? Apply to Code Platoon today and start your programming career with the next available cohort.
Jim Hennessey is Code Platoon’s Director of Marketing. Jim brings a strong background in non-profit marketing and start-up enterprises to the mission of Code Platoon. Jim is a graduate of Clemson University and currently lives in Chicago. Follow Jim on LinkedIn.