More than metal: The story behind the challenge coin that went viral

By Laura LeveringDecember 5, 2023

2nd Lt. Michael Moser holds the challenge coin he created while he was in the Signal Basic Officer Leader Course (Class 006-23).
2nd Lt. Michael Moser holds the challenge coin he created while he was in the Signal Basic Officer Leader Course (Class 006-23). (Photo Credit: Courtesy photo) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT EISENHOWER, Ga. — The military has countless traditions, but few are as unique as the military challenge coin. And as one Signaleer recently pointed out, it’s not the coins that hold value as much as it is the memory associated with them.

A former first sergeant with 13 years of service, 2nd Lt. Michael Moser has given and accumulated more than his fair share of military coins — all of which are special to him. But none have garnered anywhere near the attention as the one he created for the Signal Basic Officer Leader Course, or SBOLC, he graduated from earlier in the fall.

While attending SBOLC (Class 006-23), Moser, of the Cyber Protection Brigade, created a challenge coin unique to his SBOLC class. Moser said he originally created two designs using photo editing software, then presented the ideas to his class who then voted on which one they liked best. The basis for inspiration came from a coin Moser had seen long ago that was created by the 3rd Infantry Division G6. Although similar in that both are modeled after a common access card, they are also vastly different.

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Front and back view of the challenge coin created by 2nd Lt. Michael Moser. The number of requests for the coin has exceeded Moser’s expectations, but he is doing what he can to order more as they come in. (Photo Credit: Courtesy photo) VIEW ORIGINAL
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Front view of the challenge coin created by 3rd Infantry Division’s G6 that served as inspiration for 2nd Lt. Michael Moser’s coin. (Photo Credit: Courtesy photo) VIEW ORIGINAL

Initially, Moser ordered just enough of the coins for everyone in his class, but after sharing a photo of it on his social media account, the coin went viral across numerous platforms and he was soon inundated with requests for the coin from all over the world.

“My phone, throughout the [field training exercise] I was in, continued to go off,” Moser said in disbelief. “Everybody loves it … it’s one for the ages,” Moser said.

So he placed an order for an additional 300 coins to have on hand for Signaleers who wanted one. Signal Corps Regimental Command Sgt. Maj. Linwood Barrett was one of them.

Barrett said he was “pleasantly surprised” by the coin, adding that he received multiple texts and phone calls asking if he had seen it.

“Seeing how [Moser] was in school here at Fort Eisenhower, I had to check it out,” Barrett said. “The CAC spin was amazing and well-received by all. The saying ‘No Comms No Bombs’ was the icing on the cake.”

2nd Lt. Michael Moser, center, speaks with fellow signal colleagues following his graduation from the Signal Basic Officer Leader Course (Class 006-23) on Oct. 4. Moser earned the Charles Kilbourne Leadership Award for outstanding leadership and garnered attention from all over the world after he created a challenge coin honoring his class.
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – 2nd Lt. Michael Moser, center, speaks with fellow signal colleagues following his graduation from the Signal Basic Officer Leader Course (Class 006-23) on Oct. 4. Moser earned the Charles Kilbourne Leadership Award for outstanding leadership and garnered attention from all over the world after he created a challenge coin honoring his class. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Laura Levering) VIEW ORIGINAL
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2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Signal Corps Regimental Command Sgt. Maj. Linwood Barrett and 2nd Lt. Michael Moser pose for a photo together following Moser's graduation from the Signal Basic Officer Leader Course. (Photo Credit: Laura Levering, U.S. Army Signal School) VIEW ORIGINAL

To date, close to 1,400 of the coins Moser created have gone out spanning 32 states and eight other countries. And requests for more continue to come in.

Moser wasn’t sure what to make of all the craze at first, but after hearing that some people thought it was merely a publicity stunt, more came forward describing it as a “good morale boost” for the Army — the kind that Moser said brought people together.

“In no way did I ever think that a challenge coin would’ve reached this magnitude,” Moser said. “I’ve had people who have been retired out of the Army 15, 20 years hit me up saying, ‘Hey, I want that coin.’”

Behind every coin is a story

Moser estimates he has more than 100 coins on display that were given to him, reiterating that each comes with its own story. As for what the SBOLC coin means to him, “Due to the viral response, it stands up there” in terms of being one of his favorites, he said.

“I’ve had some coins from people that I’ve mentored, and some of those coins that were given to me for mentoring someone have meant a little bit more, because it means I’ve changed their life in some aspect … and I think that’s ultimately what I want to do.”

Just as Barrett remembers the details surrounding the first military coin he received (27 years ago, upon completion of Air Assault School, Fort Campbell, Kentucky), it’s likely each of the second lieutenants from Moser’s class will look back on the specially designed coin and be able to tell stories associated with it – something that is key to keeping military traditions sacred and alive.

“Traditions are vital, and they help us stay connected to the Army’s history and heritage,” Barrett said. “Challenge coins are not just a piece of metal; they are a small token and a quick reminder of how great an organization it is … often engraved with the unit motto, a slight glance and seeing words such as ‘Pride Is Forever' or ‘This We’ll Defend’ is just what’s needed to charge the hill.”