In the military Noncommissioned Officers (NCO) are often referred to as “The Backbone of the Army”. It is upon them enforcement of standards, mentorship of lower enlisted, and management of the unit falls. As NCO’s advance in their careers, they are entrusted with increasing levels of responsibility by the military. Such is the case in Sergeant Major (SGM) Allan Walz, a senior NCO who has dedicated his career to assisting Soldiers in need, mentor lower enlisted, and serve his country. Today, SGM Walz enjoys mentoring other aspiring senior NCOs at the US Army Sergeant Major’s Academy (USASMA), however he has also served in other distinct commands, such as the US Army Medical Command (MEDCOM) where he developed his personal challenge coin despite a lack of funding for Army National Guard members (ARNG) to do so.
SGM Allan Walz
SGM Walz first entered into the ARNG in 1977 as a (91B – Medical Specialist ) Private E-1. After completing his basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, MO and advanced individual training at Fort Sam Huston, TX. He would go on as an enlisted Soldier serving in a variety of medical positions and achieving the rank of Staff Sergeant. In 1985 he was selected for full-time ARNG duty where he furthered his knowledge base by attending the Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical Course as well as the Mechanized Infantry & Bradley Fighting Vehicle Master Gunner Courses. This led him to become the first ARNG Battalion Bradley Fighting Vehicle Master Gunner for the state of Minnesota in 1990. By 1997 he had exceeded his positional expectations and was selected to serve as Senior Operations and Readiness NCO at Fort Gordon, GA working as a patient advocate to all Reserve Component Soldiers returning from Desert Storm. After pinning Master Sergeant in 1999, he was transferred to Senior Operations and Readiness NCO in San Antonio’s Great Plains Regional Medical Command continuing his advocacy efforts and working greatly with the Active Duty Medical Extension Program. Completing USASMA himself in 2003, he was selected as the Senior Enlisted Medical Advisor at the US Army National Guard Readiness Center and then Senior Medical Advisor at Medical Command (MEDCOM) in 2009. Today, SGM Walz serves as the Senior ARNG Advisor at the US Army Sergeants Major Academy, a position he was selected for in early 2012, where he continues to advise his fellow NCOs and students alike.
US Army Medical Command (MEDCOM)
MEDCOM is an US Army organizational entity formed in a 1992 reorganization that today is responsible for the oversight, coordination, and command & control of the UA Army’s medical and veterinary facilities. It works to establish force-wide preventative care, medical research and development of treatments, and training of medical staff. MEDCOM’s Mission Statement reads, “Army Medicine provides responsive and reliable health services and influences Health to improve readiness, save lives, and advance wellness in support of the Force, Military Families, and all those entrusted to our care. “  The overall Commander of MEDCOM is the US Army Surgeon General whom oversees the five divisions of MEDCOM; Europe Regional, Southern Regional, Northern Regional, Pacific Regional, and Western Regional. Within each region, MEDCOM units are responsible for the day-to-day care of Soldiers and their families and the level of care often exceeds that of public health institutions. When deployed MEDCOM provides most of the clinical and support professionals to provide treatment of Soldiers wounded on the battlefield.When discussing his time at MEDCOM, SGM Walz replied,
“My position at MEDCOM was extremely important in I was able to assist Soldiers with medical issues that impacted the entire force. The decisions we made to provide care opened many doors for future injured Soldiers. One Soldier in particular was in Central America and had just come off deployment orders. He was in a hotel and was on the balcony using his cell phone. Somehow an electrical line came into contact with his left forearm and burned his arm so badly it had to be amputated. He was medically evacuated to Fort Sam Houston, TX, without any cost to him or his family, for treatment. He was eligible for treatment because he had come off of orders only 4 days before. He was eligible for care because of the Temporary Assistance Management Program. Although we could not pay him military pay during his recovery, I was extremely satisfied the Army would take care of his medical issues to include a prosthesis for the rest of his life”.
SGM Walz’s MEDCOM Challenge Coin 2009-2012
Uniquely shaped to resemble the MEDCOM patch , SGM Walz choose a number of features that not only reflect his professional values, but personal views as an NCO and ARNG member. Both sides have a similar maroon background (representative of the colors to the Medical Career Management Field), white/silver edging (symbolic of the bandages used in battle), and three five-pointed stars (red, white, and blue in recognition of the American flag) border the left and right of each side of the coin. Both sides also have an epoxy coating to protect the coin’s features and colors. When asked about presentation of his challenge coin SGM Walz said,
“I give my coin to wounded/ill/injured Soldiers, as they have paid a price for our continued freedom. I also give my coin to retirees as a distinction of their service to our country. I present my coin to other people for actions I consider outstanding and unselfish in nature. I do not give my coin to Soldiers who ask for it. Challenge coins are important to me because when I give out a coin, it comes from my heart. I do not give out a lot of them and the recipient must have accomplished an act or mission that I see as important to the welfare of our Soldiers or our organization. A coin to me is as important as receiving an award. I cherish each coin I have received and I hope the Soldiers that receive my coin feel the same way”.
Centered on the Obverse is the enlisted yellow rank of Sergeant Major featuring three chevrons up, three arcs down, and a star between the two. Under the rank in silver lettering appears the word “Integrity” that SGM Walz says is in his eyes are the most important of virtues,
“My word is my bond and I will not be swayed by outside forces”.
To the left appears the head of a full-color American Bald Eagle looking to the left with “Freedom” written in silver below. SGM Walz attributes these features by stating,
“I believe freedom is one of the most important factors in our lives and must be protected at all costs”.
On the right side of the Obverse is a full-color of the American flag with “Honor” written in silver below it that SGM Walz asserts,
“The flag reminds me of the heritage of our country and how we fought many physical, emotional, and mental battles to become the great nation that we are. The word honor reminds me to hold special regard for our enemies and their ways of life. It is important to hold high regard for our fellow Soldiers and to treat people with respect and dignity”.
At the bottom center of the Obverse is the serialized number of each coin. SGM Walz takes the serialization very seriously as it is a method to prevent fraudulent minters or retail of his coin. SGM Walz cites two reasons the serial numbers are important to him; first as he keeps detailed records where, when, and who each coin has been presented to – and it allows him to, secondly, if he should see his coin on E-Bay he can recall exactly who is selling it. Along the top edge of the Obverse is written “SGM Allan L. Walz” denoting who this coin represents, and along the bottom is “ARNG Senior Enlisted Medical Advisor” correlating the position SGM Walz was assigned while serving at MEDCOM.
The Reverse of SGM Walz’s MEDCOM Challenge Coin features four central symbols highlighting his career and views. At left is the ARNG “Minuteman” in silver adopted as the organization’s representation because American colonial minutemen provided a rapidly deployable force so the colonies could respond immediately to war threats, hence the name. Its usage reminds SGM Walz that the ARNG is the oldest military in the United States founded on December 13, 1636 and he considers it an honor to be a member of the oldest military establishment in the USA. In the center of the Reverse are two symbols that are paired; the crest of the Army National Guard Surgeon’s Office (above) and the Combat Medic (below) scene of a medic rendering aid to a fallen Soldier. SGM Walz identifies with these attributes saying,
“These two symbols remind me that I am a Medic, the owner of the “Golden Hour,” and that I am responsible to provide medical treatment for our wounded/ill/injured Soldiers. This includes care, compassion and empathy for the Soldiers and their families.
To the right is the US Army MEDCOM insignia, of which SGM Walz is a member of that community, and incorporates a sword with hilt at the top and hand guard in the form of a pair of stylized wings, and below two serpents with heads facing center and bodies entwined about the blade all in white and all within a white border, according to The Institute of Heraldry.  Written on the bottom-center in green is the phrase “Here to Serve” which SGM Walz uses as a personal mantra to remind himself of his commitment to the Army and soldiers, insisting that when he forgets the reason he wears the uniform – its time to go home. Lastly, written in black along the top edge of the Reverse is “MEDCOM Reserve Affairs” denoting the presenter’s positional office and “Coin of Excellence” along the bottom that SGM Walz identifies with by asserting,
“You have earned this coin by action or actions meriting distinction from your fellow Soldiers”.
- US Army Medial Command. “Mission”. About Army Medicine. 2013. http://www.armymedicine.army.mil/about/mission.html.
- The Institute of Heraldry – Heraldry. “US Army Medical Command.” The Institute of Heraldry. 2013. http://www.tioh.hqda.pentagon.mil/Heraldry/ArmyDUISSICOA/ArmyHeraldryUnit.aspx?u=5653.
Coordination provided by SGM Walz, United States Army Sergeants Major Academy.