3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team Challenge Coin 2011 – Present

3BCTcrestFort Benning, long known as the “Home of the Army Infantry”, has hosted a variety of units throughout its history. Among these active duty units is the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team (ABCT) that utilizes the men and women in uniform with the most advanced armored forces and rapid combat support/services to “deploy on order to conduct Full Spectrum Operations to defeat enemy forces, control land areas, and secure populations and resources in support of U.S. national interests”. [1] This is no simple boast as the 3rd ABCT also touts a history as one of the most deployed main-line brigades in active service going back to its 1917 foundation within the 3rd Infantry Division to deployments as recently as early 2013.

3ID in WWI
3ID in WWI

Formed November 12th, 1917 as the Headquarters, 6th Infantry Brigade (BDE), the unit was first manned on December 1st that same year at Camp Greene, North Carolina. The 6th BDE then went on to participate in the WWI conflict earning multiple citations in the Aisne, Champagne-Marne, Aisne-Marne, St. Mihiel, Meuse-Argonne, and Champagne campaigns. Upon return from the war, the 6th BDE was then deactivated on October 12th, 1939.

During the months leading into US involvement t of WWII, each regiment of the 6th BDE was again called upon for service overseas against Axis forces, and fought (in parts) as the 3rd BDE, 3rd Infantry Division. The unit’s fierce determination and strength under fire earned 3rd BDE soldiers the moniker “Blue and White Devils” by German forces, whom often spotted the unit’s blue and white banded 3rd Infantry Division crest following a withering engagement. These “Dog Faced Soldiers” of the 3rd Infantry Division engaged Axis forces on the march from Africa, the Mediterranean, and into Europe following the June 6th 1944 invasion of Normandy until cessation of hostilities in 1945.

The 3rd BDE continued to remain in Germany well after WWII and served as a buffer to the growing Communist threat. Additionally, the unit was also assigned part of the worldwide mission to the XVIII Airborne Corps to increase its deployability. Again reflagged on April 18th, 1963 as the modern 3rd “Sledgehammer” BDE, 3rd Infantry Division it would continue to serve in Aschaffenburg, Germany until the end of the Cold War in 1991, later relocating to Fort Benning, Georgia in 1996.

3rd HBCTDuring Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm, the 3rd BDE joined with elements from Fort Benning’s 197th Separate Infantry BDE, and the 1st Armored Division to spearhead the Coalition’s ground attack across the Euphrates River and into Baghdad. It would take over a decade, but the 3rd BDE would again return to the Iraqi desert to retrace its tracks, permanently removing the threat of Sadam Hussein and his forces.

In January 2003 elements of the Sledgehammer BDE postured themselves for the Global War on Terror in the Kuwaiti desert. On March 20th they received their movement orders as Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) launched, spearheading the Coalition ground offensive into Iraq and meeting Iraqi forces in three major engagements. The 3rd BDE would conduct a blitz-like effort, traveling approximately 600 kilometers in just 21 days of continuous combat operations before finally arriving into northwest Baghdad. The unit’s arrival not only liberated numerous Iraqi villages and cities, just as it had done in WWII, but also removed Saddam Hussein’s terrorizing Fedayeen and regime from power. By June, the unit returned to Ft. Benning whereupon it began reorganizing under the military’s new Brigade Combat Team plan.

3rd HBCTOver the course of the next 11 years the 3rd ABCT would deploy and set boots down throughout central and southern Iraq in over five provinces, leading to greater advising and assisting between themselves and the Iraqi security forces, improved reconstruction efforts to the Iraqi people, and established free elections. In its most recent deployment the 3rd ABCT served in Kuwait as part of Central Command’s “Theatre Reserve Mission” continuing its partnership with Kuwaiti forces until February 2013, when it returned to Ft. Benning. Today members of the 3rd ABCT stand ready with the most advanced conventional forces available to enact orders of the President of the United States. [1]

Much like the Divisional commander’s challenge coin, the 3rd ABCT Challenge Coin continues the traditions of the “Marne Division” in keeping the same design it has had since the coin’s inception. Recently in 2011, the coin’s outer appearance changed from the 2009 design with a burnished antique finish to a chrome plating, giving the coin’s features a more brilliant appearance. Overall a 3” diameter coin, the symbols of the 3rd ABCT coin represents the foundation of the unit and command.

ProfileWhen asked about what values are imparted to the unit’s challenge coin COL Johnnie L. Johnson Jr. Commander of the 3rd ABCT states,

“When I hand a challenge coin to a Soldier, that Soldier has demonstrated and displayed outstanding performance, and has gone above and beyond in comparison to his peers in terms of his duty performance. Most Soldiers who receive these coins are really excelling in what they do, and that’s both on and off-duty. It’s not just limited to the performance of official duties, because some of these Soldiers do volunteer work off-post with organizations that support local communities. It’s all encompassing, and it’s one of the most rewarding things that I do as a commander. These coins are a very small way of demonstrating our appreciation to these Soldiers. And in a lot of cases, they prefer to have a challenge coin to an actual Army award. They are very proud of the coins they receive. Personally, it’s rewarding that I can reflect on where I’ve been and whom I’ve served with based on just the coins in my collection. I remember distinctly the exact circumstances in which I’ve received a coin, and they allow me to reflect on my military career, the Soldiers I served with, and the units I was assigned to.”

Profile3rd ABCT’s Senior Enlisted CSM Brian D. Harrison echoes this sentiment saying,

“Giving a Soldier a coin shows the value of recognizing the Soldier’s accomplishments and achievements both physical and academic. It’s a way of showing that what they did means something. It’s also an immediate means of recognition. To receive a coin, a Soldier doesn’t have to necessarily be doing something during the duty day. For a Command Sergeant Major, since we can’t give awards, it’s a way for senior NCOs to recognize Soldiers’ achievements and excellence with something tangible. Soldiers use them as bragging rights.”




Centered on the Obverse is the 3rd Infantry Division unit patch with the numerical identification of “3” for the 3rd ABCT. Against a radiant line field (background) and surrounding the 3rd ABCT insignia are the major elements comprising the 3rd ABCT (from 12 o’clock – clockwise); an M2A2 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle, an M1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tank, an M9 Armored Combat Engineering Vehicle, a Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck, and a M109A6 Paladin. Against an outer band of Infantry Blue, the phrase of “3rd BDE, 3rd INF DIV (M)” is written across the top half of the Obverse while the 3rd ABCT nickname of “Sledgehammer” is written along the bottom. GEN William W. Hartzog coined this epithet for the brigade because like the sledgehammer, the brigade was “Not fancy, just tough”. In the 2009-2011 version of the ABCT’s Challenge coin, the outer blue band lacked a protective coating; however, in the newer chrome finished challenge coins the blue band now is protected in an epoxy finish.




The Reverse of the challenge coin incorporates all the symbolism of the 3rd ABCT. Centered is the 3rd Infantry Division’s crest, a blue wyvern taken from the Divisional Challenge Coin. Above this is the 3rd Infantry Division patch and “3” for the 3rd ABCT which includes a scroll reading “Awarded for Excellence”. Below the 3rd Infantry Division crest is the blue placard on which again reads the 3rd ABCT nickname “Sledgehammers”. Atop these features are two joined sledgehammers on which the designation of “Hammer 6” and “Hammer 7” are forged to represent the 3rd ABCT Commander and Command Sergeant Major. Confirming this representation behind the sledgehammers appear the positional eagle rank of Colonel on the left (for Hammer 6) and Chevrons, Star, and Wreath for Command Sergeant Major (Hammer 7). Surmounting the outer edge is a wreath with a scroll again appearing on the bottom (in previous editions of this challenge coin sometimes serial numbers were engraved into the scroll).

Previous Version

Previously, the 2009-2011 ABCT Challenge Coin is the same design only with a different burnished antique finish.











Works Cited

1. CPT Minchew, Donald. “Brigade History.” 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team (3 ABCT), 3rd Infantry Division – Sledgehammer. CPT Donald Minchew. January 23, 2013. http://www.stewart.army.mil/units/3BCT/home.asp (accessed April 10, 2013).

Coordination provided by MAJ Ellis Gales Jr., SGT Peter Holzer, and SGT Christopher Johnson 3rd ABCT, 3rd Infantry Division Public Affairs Office. 


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