Special Operations Task Force – Central Challenge Coin (Ver.1) Circa 2010-11

090219-F-2098F-002Since the 2003 US involvement in Iraq, Special Operations Forces (SOF) had a long history in theatre of working closely with indigenous security forces. From operations pursuing insurgent forces, mentoring elite counter terror units, or coordinating tribal and civil improvement programs SOF elements were at the tip of the spear. [1][2] Coordinating the SOF efforts in Iraq was the Special Operations Task Force – Central (SOTF-C), a temporary sub-command under the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force – Arabian Peninsula (CJSOTF-AP). [3]

Between 2008 and 2011 predominantly elements of the 10th Special Forces Group (SFG) were assigned to the SOTF-C, headquartered in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad and were responsible for SOF operations throughout southern Iraq. During that time SOTF-C earned multiple citations to include several Meritorious Unit Citations in;

Exhibiting selfless service, determination, and esprit-de-corps by blending both lethal and non-lethal means into a comprehensive approach to defeat insurgent efforts. The unit’s actions paved the way for Foreign Internal Defense, Advanced Special Operations, Direct Action, Military Information Support Operations, Civil Military Operations and Iraqi Special Forces expansion for both Operation Iraqi Freedom and New Dawn. [3][4]

However, the unit’s mentorship of the budding Iraqi forces against the national insurgency did come at a cost. Often elements of SOTF-C and its mentored units, such as the Iraqi Special Operations Forces (ISOF), Emergency Response Brigade (ERB), and Al Hillah SWAT would conduct high-risk operations. On July 27th, 2009 as part of the transition to Iraqi sovereignty, the mentored ISOF and Counter Terrorism Forces served an evidence-driven warrant for arrest when the Iraqi unit sustained casualties. [5] Demonstrating the bond between mentor and mentee at the memorial service, attending members of the CJSOTF-AP and SOTF-C offered words of remembrance sacrifice. LTC James M. Higgins with CJSOTF-AP said,

They paid the ultimate price for their nation [Iraq]. We will always remember them and the sacrifice they, and so many of our men, have made.

28bh01wBy mid 2011, SOTF-C was nearing the end of its duties in theatre as part of Operation New Dawn. A significant part of the drawdown included many of bases supporting SOTF-C had begun to close, making the SOTF-C mission of mentoring and transition ever more difficult – and dangerous. As equipment was made in excess due to these closures, SOTF-C would reallocate the resources to other bases enabling the SOF elements to remain in the fight and further the partnership with their Iraqi counterparts ahead of transition. SOTF–C forces continued to mitigate the operational impact of the drawdown by coordinating with adjacent units as they thinned and consolidated their lines, became more expeditionary and reduced their logistics footprint to be more agile. [6] By November 2011 US forces in Iraq had predominantly been returned to their home garrisons and SOTF-C was then folded back into the CJSOTF-AP structure and by December that same year the command was discontinued.

Challenge Coins

The SOTF-C challenge coin has undergone a number of evolutions during the unit’s involvement in Iraq. Featured is the first version of the 2010-11 SOTF-C challenge coins during Operation Iraqi Freedom and the initial year of Operation New Dawn. A moderation to the previous “Punisher” skull coin, the 2010 SOTF-C challenge coin was initially only 1.5” in height and irregularly shaped. By 2011 a second version of this coin demonstrated its popularity as the coin was increased to 2” and then include a serialized number. This variant of the SOTF-C challenge coin was the last to represent the unit before its withdrawal and realignment of the command.

Obverse

IMG_2979Unique to challenge coins, the Obverse of the SOTF 2010-11 challenge coin reflects the personal view of the SOF community whom often jokingly refer to themselves as “snake eaters”. Demonstrating this symbolism the Obverse features, in full color and epoxy seal, a flesh-toned skull (much like the previous “Punisher” version) wearing the Special Forces Green Beret with “De Oppresso Liber” flash. Behind the skull is a silver dagger often associated to special operations and often taken to represents the “straight and true” qualities that forge an SF member. Coiled around both the dagger and skull, from bottom to top, is a dark-green rattlesnake in a strike posture.

 

 

 

 

Reverse

IMG_2980Illustrating the participating units and history of the SOTF-C, the Reverse demonstrates multiple levels of symbolism. In the foreground are the unit crests of former participating elements within the SOTF-C command. These include the US Special Forces “De Oppresso Liber” flash, US Navy SEAL crest, Iraqi ERB, and ISOF. Behind these elements is the larger crest of the 10th SFG (for which SOTF-C was commanded by) featuring the Trojan horse, shield, and Airborne wings. [7] At the top of the Reverse is a green scroll in yellow border reading “SOTF-C” while at the bottom black text reads “Presented for Excellence”. Also on the bottom of the Reverse the later and larger versions of the SOTF-C 2010-11 challenge coin features a small three-digit serial number enclosed in a highlighted box.

 

 

  

Previous Versions

As noted, the SOTF-C challenge coin has seen a number of evolutions. From its initial minting as a representation of the 10th SFG crest, two circular designs, and a unique epoxy enclosed “Punisher” skull, the development of these coins has remained exclusive to the unit’s history and consistent to the unique partnership with the Iraqi security force, ISOF and ERB.

Works Cited

  1. SGT Ledesma, Jeff. Special Forces, local tribal leaders set tracks to stimulate economic growth in agricultural district. Department fo Defense. May 30, 2009. http://www.dvidshub.net/news/34325/special-forces-local-tribal-leaders…t-tracks-stimulate-economic-growth-agricultural-district#.UUvKvxwpWcw (accessed March 20, 2013).
  2. —. U.S. Special Forces leave lasting impact on ISOF counter-terrorism force. Department of Defense. August 4, 2009. http://www.dvidshub.net/news/37134/us-special-forces-leave-lasting-impact-isof-counter-terrorism-force#.UUvPYhwpWcw (accessed March 15, 2013).
  3. Department of the Army. “Meritorious Unit Commendation.” Permanent Orders 347-07, Awards and Decorations Branch, U.S. Army Human Resources Command, 2010, 2.
  4. Department of the Army. “Meritorious Unit Commendation.” Permanent Orders 061-04, Awards and Decorations Branch, U.S. Army Human Resources Command, 2012, 2.
  5. SGT Ledesma, Jeffery A. Iraqi Soldiers’ sacrifices honored with silence, a stillness heard throughout the brigade. Department of Defense. August 19, 2009. http://www.army.mil/article/25777/Iraqi_Soldiers__039__sacrifices_honored_with_silence__a_stillness_heard_throughout_the_brigade/ (accessed March 20, 2013).
  6. MAJ Craig, Thomas B. “Supporting a Special Operations Task Force During the Withdrawal From Iraq.” Army Sustainment. Army Sustainment Command. March 2012. http://www.almc.army.mil/alog/issues/MarApril12/Supporting_Special_Operations.html (accessed March 2013, 21).
  7. USASFC. 10th SFG(A) Lineage. 2013. http://www.soc.mil/USASFC/10thSFGA/10th%20SFG%20Lineage.html (accessed March 3, 2013).
  8. Mosier, Duane L. “The Road to Al Amarah: Operation Yarborough and U.S. Army Special Forces in Southern Iraq .” Small Wars Journal. Small Wars Foundation. November 4, 2010. smallwarsjournal.com/blog/journal/docs-temp/593-mosier.pdf (accessed March 4, 2013).
  9. SPC Hatton, William. SF Soldiers having some fun with the Carl Gustav. Shadow Spear. May 11, 2009. http://www.shadowspear.com/vb/threads/sf-soldiers-having-some-fun-with-the-carl-gustav.3876/ (accessed March 15, 2013).
  10. SSG Franks, Bryan. U.S. Military Special Forces Soldiers train, coach premiere police force in Iraq. Blackanthem.com. March 4, 2009. http://www.blackanthem.com/News/U_S_Military_19/Special-Forces-Soldiers-train-coach-premiere-police-force-in-Iraq (accessed March 20, 2013).

 

Coordination provided in 2013 by LTC Dave Connolly, Director of Public Affairs, US Army Special Operations Command

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s