GEN Joseph F. Dunford & GEN John F. Campbell – ISAF Commander’s Challenge Coin 2013 – 2015

UnknownAs America prepares to end its presence in Afghanistan, several Commanders have held tenure during the drawdown and transition from the International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) command to the Afghan government. And during their time, both GEN Joseph F. Dunford (2013-2014) and GEN John F. Campbell (2014 – 2015) selected a Commander’s challenge coin that reflected their unique position as ISAF Commander (COMISAF) rather than the individual. Both men chose to honor the previous design held by another former ISAF Commander, GEN David H. Petraeus, but without key representative features codifying it as the last in an esteemed lineage of Commander’s challenge coins in Afghanistan.

ISAF History

ISAF Forces at peak of International participation in 2008
ISAF Forces at peak of International participation in 2008

In December 2001, shortly after the war in began, UN and other world leaders met to develop the Bonn Agreement. This agreement established ISAF as the security element to the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan, and outlined that ISAF was to initially (1) provide security in Kabul and (2) enable a secure setting for the Afghan Transitional Authority to begin rebuilding the country. By 2003 the mission and role of ISAF had grown, and by 2006 ISAF’s mission included a majority of the combat and reconstruction effort throughout Afghanistan. (ISAF Public Affairs Office)

ISAF continued to promote its security mission to “conduct security and stability operations throughout the country together with the Afghan National Security Forces and is directly involved in the development of the Afghan National Security Forces through mentoring, training and equipping”. Emphasizing a reconstruction dialogue in 2012, ISAF also aims to help “the Afghan Authorities strengthen the institutions required to fully establish good governance and rule of law and to promote human rights”. In 2014, ISAF transitioned to Operation RESOLUTE SUPPORT signifying the close from a security-centric mission to one of support to Afghan forces and its government. (ISAF Public Affairs Office)

GEN Joseph F. Dunford

U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr.
U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr.

General Joseph ‘Fighting Joe” Dunford, Jr. assumed the duties of COMISAF from February 10, 2013 through August 26, 2014. A native of Boston, Massachusetts, he graduated from St. Michael’s College and was commissioned in 1977. He currently serves as the Executive Assistant to the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Commandant of the USMC.

General Dunford has served as an infantry officer at all levels. He commanded 2nd Battalion, 6th Marines. During Operation IRAQI FREEDOM, he commanded the 5th Marine Regiment.

His Joint assignments include service as the Executive Assistant to the Vice Chairman, JCS, Chief, Global and Multilateral Affairs Division (J5), and Vice Director for Operations on the Joint Staff (J3).

He has also served as the Assistant Division Commander, 1st Marine Division, Marine Corps Director of Operations, and Marine Corps Deputy Commandant for Plans, Policies and Operations. He commanded I Marine Expeditionary Force and served as the Commander, Marine Forces U.S. Central Command. From 2010-2012, he served as the Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps.

General Dunford is a graduate of the U.S. Army Ranger School, Marine Corps Amphibious Warfare School, and the U.S. Army War College. He holds a M.A. in Government from Georgetown University and a M.A. in International Relations from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. (USMC Offical Page)

GEN John F. Campbell

General John F. Campbell
General John F. Campbell

GEN John F. Campbell assumed the duties of COMISAF from August 26, 2014 through December 28, 2014 when the ISAF mission transitioned to Operation RESOLUTE SUPPORT, and  where GEN Campbell remains its current Commander.

As the son of a U.S Air Force Senior Master Sergeant, Campbell grew up on military bases around the world before attending the United States Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. He graduated in 1979 with a commission in the Infantry. During more than 33 years of service, he has commanded units at every echelon from platoon to division, with duty in Germany, Haiti, Iraq, Afghanistan and the United States. After his first assignment with the U.S. Army Europe, Campbell was assigned to Fort Bragg, N.C., where he commanded a Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpha in the 5th Special Forces Group, and an Infantry company in the 82nd Airborne Division.

Returning to Fort Bragg, he served as the Aide-de-Camp to the Commanding General, XVIII Airborne Corps, and deployed in support of OPERATION UPHOLD DEMOCRACY. He later commanded 2d Battalion, 5th Infantry, 25th Infantry Division (Light) at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.

Campbell commanded 1st Brigade, 82d Airborne Division and led the brigade during OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM. Most recently, he served as the Commanding General, 101st Airborne Division, Fort Campbell, KY, and led the division as Combined Joint Task Force 101 during OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM.

Other significant assignments include: Professor of Military Science University of California, Davis; Operations Officer, J-33, the Joint Staff; Executive Officer to the 35th Chief of Staff of the Army; Deputy Commanding General (Maneuver), 1st Cavalry Division and Multinational Division Baghdad; and Deputy Director for Regional Operations, J-3, the Joint Staff; Headquarters, Department of the Army, Deputy Chief of Staff, G-3/5/7.

Campbell holds a Bachelor of Science degree from West Point and a master’s degree in Public Administration from Golden Gate University. He is a graduate of the Command and General Staff College and the Army War College. (US Army)

GEN Joseph F. Dunford & GEN John F. Campbell – ISAF Commander’s Challenge Coin 2013 – 2015

The COMISAF challenge coin for both GEN Dunford and GEN Campbell measures approximately 2” at its widest and tapers to a point at the bottom. It is also approximately 2.5” in overall length and 1/8” in thickness.



The COMISAF Challenge Coin is an odd-shaped design taken after the NATO-OTAN shield, with a symbolic Rose Compass in the Obverse’s center. The compass represents the global community, and truly corresponds to the international effort of bringing security to Afghanistan. Although the actual colors of the NATO-OTAN shield are blue and white, the coin’s colors follow the subdued desert coloring necessary for active duty. Many often ask what OTAN stands for, it is in fact the French derivation of NATO standing for Organisation du traité de l’Atlantique Nord because the two official languages of NATO are English and French. Above there is simply the “ISAF” designation for the Command prior to its realignment under Operation RESOLUTE SUPPORT.



On the reverse side of the COMISAF challenge coin, similar to the fourth and fifth versions of GEN Petraeus’ COMISAF coin during his tenure, GEN Dunford and Campbell continued the Reverse of their coins with a solid black representation of Afghanistan against a burnished silver field. Soldiers often take great pride in displaying this side of the coin because one can easily identify whom it was presented by. On the top-most edge reads “For Excellence” while on the bottom is inscribed, “Commander NATO International Security Assistance Force”.

Previous Versions

GEN John R. Allen parted ways with the NATO-OTAN shield design during his tenure as COMISAF from July 18, 2011 through February 10, 2013. Instead he chose a circular design representative of his rank as general and Commander to ISAF and American forces in Afghanistan. (DIVIDS)

GEN David H. Petraeus was the first to commission two versions of the NATO-OTAN coin (ver. 4 and ver. 5) during the latter half of his tenure as COMISAF between July 4, 2010 and July 18, 2011. General Petraeus also held three other previous COMISAF coin designs, one of which he shared with his predecessor GEN Stanley McCrystal.

Contributions provided by Christoph Klawitter

Works Cited

ISAF Public Affairs Office. About ISAF: History. 2012. Accessed 1 November 2012 < >.

—. About ISAF: Mission. 2012. Accessed 1 November 2012. <;.

US Army. Gen. John F. Campbell biography. 2015. Accessed 20 August 2015. < >.

USMC Offical Page. Commandant of the Marine Corps. 2015. Accessed 25 August 2015. <;.

DIVIDS. Soldiers get ‘coined’ by ISAF commander at Spin Boldak. 2012. Accessed 20 August 2015. .


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