Posted on Nov 21, 2019 by Jesse Daugherty
Challenge coins are a traditional part of military life. The coins extend into all branches of the U.S. military, including the Air Force. Air Force coins are quite sought-after mementos. These meaningful coins are received as acknowledgments of important milestones throughout an airman's service.
For many, the first coin they receive is during their Air Force enlistment. The Airman’s Coin is presented to recruits who successfully complete Air Force Basic Military Training. The coin is presented at its own ceremony at the end of 8.5 weeks of grueling training. They serve to mark the transition from trainee to Airman. It’s a distinction that’s well deserved.
The official Airman’s Coin features the United States Air Force Symbol. The symbol is a stylized pair of wings with a star in the center and three diamonds beneath. The symbol is found in dark blue on the front of the coin. Encircling the image are the words “Awarded on the occasion of becoming an Airman in the world’s best Air Force.”
The opposite side features a similar star with wings and a red center dot, known as a "Hap Arnold star."This design is encircled by the Air Force Core Values, which are represented by the three diamonds on the front: “Integrity First, Service Before Self, Excellence In All We Do.”
From the moment they arrive at boot camp, Air Force trainees start an intense process to develop discipline, teamwork, and leadership skills. BMT, or Basic Military Training, requires extreme physical and mental exertion to learn the duties required. Trainees often regard this phase of their enlistment as the most challenging and most rewarding. BMT is comprised of an increasing series of exercises and experiences design to create unit camaraderie, build physical fitness quickly, and teach decision-making. This is all essential in making the best possible Airmen.
These elements are why Air Force Coins are an excellent way to commemorate. The week considered the most difficult is the sixth week of training, known as “BEAST Week." The word is an acronym for "Basic Expeditionary Airman Skills Training.” This phase of BMT is a simulated combat deployment entirely run by the trainees.
They are responsible for defending their position from simulated air, ground, and even suicide bomber attacks. These simulations include attacks at any time of day or night, full-body armor at all times, and simulated chemical/biological warfare attacks. All meals are the standard-issue MREs (Meals Ready To Eat.) The trainees learn how to handle nearly any combat situation, including detection and avoidance of improvised explosive devices.
The finale of BMT marks the beginning of graduation week. The trainees are each presented with their Airman’s Coin at an official Airman’s Coin Ceremony. Friends and family members are invited to attend, and a lot of them do. Upon receiving the coin, recipients know they are no longer trainees and have earned the right to call themselves Airmen.
While an Airman's enlistment will contain many more milestones and more custom Air Force coins. There are few things that match the satisfaction of knowing they successfully completed BMT. This is a significant moment in the career of an Airman, marking the transition from civilian to a valued member of our armed forces.