What Is a “Coin Check”?

Coin Check

Challenge coins collected from active and retired service members on Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow, Calif. The challenge coin has represented esprit de corps and has been part of military tradition for decades.
Read more on DVIDS

During a “coin check”, one soldier holds up a unit coin and expects comrades to show the same one.  If someone fails to do so, the soldier must buy a round of drinks for everyone in the house or in my case the officers club.  Here’s why the tradition began.

Legend says that a downed World War I pilot behind enemy lines was saved from being executed as a spy at a French camp because of his unit medallion.  The coin was his only American identification.  Instead of death, the pilot received a bottle of wine, according to the American Forces Press Service.

After the pilot’s story reached service members, they started carrying the coins, and when challenged, any member without one was supposed to buy the challenger a drink.

My earliest memories of being stationed at FT Hood, TX in 1987 was being assigned to 2/41 IN, 1st Tiger Brigade, 2d Armored Division (Straight and Stalwart).  One of the first requirements was to purchase a unit coin, which I still have to this day in my collection of various unit coins.