Tag Archives: Kandahar

Task Force 31 “Desert Eagles” Challenge Coin Circa 2006

TF 31 Forces And ANA Hunt Anti-coalition Forces

Having served multiple deployments in southern Afghanistan, Task Force (TF) 31 (aka. The “Desert Eagles”) was involved in Operation Enduring Freedom between 2003 and 2010. From its establishment in 1963 as a Special Action Force mentoring security forces in the Congo; to the unit’s temporary deactivation in 1969 and then reactivation on July 1st, 1990 at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, the 3rd Special Forces Group (SFG) has served an essential role in the War on Terror and assisting Afghan Security Forces since 2003. [1] The group’s efforts were recently promoted in the 2011 book Lions of Kandahar: The Story of a Fight Against All Odds by Rusty Bradely (Ret.) recalling OPERATION MEDUSA and the difficulty of southern stabilization in 2006. [2] While serving in Afghanistan, TF 31 was headquartered at Kandahar Airfield and built within the 3rdSFG and TF BAYONET (173rd Infantry) as a combined joint special operations task force. [3]


Dividing their mission between “kinetic” operations (intent on capturing or killing the enemy), and “non-kinetic” operations (aimed at countering the Taliban ideology), TF 31 provided much of the US-led efforts to countering Taliban influence in southern Afghanistan, particularly near the southern capital of Kandahar.  [3] In 2008, ten members of TF 31 were awarded the Silver Star for combat action during the Battle of Shok Valley. The contact proved to be one of the most intensive combat actions for the 3rd SFG since the Vietnam War.

In October 2010, Staff Sergeant Robert James Miller of the 3rd SFG was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for action on January 25, 2008. Then Miller’s group was ambushed while conducting a reconnaissance patrol in eastern Afghanistan’s Kunar Province. Wounded within the first minutes of the

3rd SFG, 1st BN First Non-Canadian Unit Presented with Citation

ambush and under intense enemy fire, Miller maintained his position providing suppressive fire on multiple enemy positions. Miller’s gallant actions allowed his wounded commander to be pulled out of the line of fire and his fellow teammates to safely reach cover. Miller was able to single-handedly eliminate several enemy combatants before succumbing to his wounds thereby saving the lives of multiple team members.

On May 23rd, 2012 the 1st Battalion, 3rd SFG was awarded a Unit Commendation medal from the Canadian Commander-in-Chief for their actions during Operation MEDUSA in 2006. Since then, TF 31 was again folded back into the 3rd SFG reassigned to the African area or responsibility. [4]




The TF 31 Challenge Coin features a number of unique symbols indicative of special operations. On the Obverse appears an eagle’s head outlined in brass against an all black background. The eye of the eagle is quad-colored to represent the four colors of the 3rd SFG unit flash. Just below the eagle appears the crossed arrows symbolic of the asymmetric nature in special operations while the “3” and “1” affiliate this coin to the 3rd SFG, 1st Battalion. In brass lettering “Task Force 31” appears written across the top with “Desert Eagles” along the bottom both identifying the unit and their well known nickname while serving in Afghanistan. The far edgework of the Obverse also features a unique wave cut with the entire side enclosed in epoxy.





Centered against a green field, on the Reverse is the country of Afghanistan divided into the four colors of the 3rd SFG unit flash that was approved March 20th, 1989. [5] The color selection of the 3rd SFG flash heralds back the 1st SFG (yellow), 7th SFG (red), 5th SFG (black), and the Special Forces Training Group (white) which all contributed to the establishment of the 3rd SFG. [5] Centered on Afghanistan is the Special Forces Scroll. Authorized in 1960, the crossed arrows of the SF insignia and scroll are taken from the 1st Special Service Force and intended to symbolize the principles of unconventional warfare. The dagger represents the “straight and true” qualities that forge an SF member. Lastly, along the black scroll reads “De Oppresso Liber” which is translated from Latin to mean “To Liberate the Oppressed”, a common mantra for the SF Community and their mission of bringing freedom and strength to many whom are themselves oppressed.  [6] Around Afghanistan are a number of qualification badges often earned by members of the special operations community and along the top include the Combat Infantryman’s Badge with Star device (representing a second award of the CIB), the Combat Medic’s Badge with Star device, and below Afghanistan include the HALO Jump Wings with Star device, Airborne Jump Wings with Star device, Scuba dive master badge, and the Special Forces/Delta Force badge. Written along the top is the 3rd SFG 2006 mantra of “Pressure, Pursue, and Punish” and along the bottom is written, “We will not falter. We will not fail” that demonstrate the longstanding dedication of the 3rd SFG to complete their assigned missions. Along the outer edge are three enclosing bands of red, white, and blue representing the colors of the American flag. As like the Obverse, the Reverse is also enclosed in epoxy to protect the coin’s features.

Previous/Alternate Versions


There are several possible 3rd SFG, 1st Battalion coins (a circular coin, shield,  or “dog-tag” in brushed/antique silver) also from within the same time period in the unit’s history. However, only the “dog-tag” variant has been identified as the 1st Battalion Commander’s Challenge Coin from later in the unit’s history. Other variants have been noted, but their validity/association could not be established in either personal accounts, research, or press linking them to the unit’s 2003-2012 involvement in Afghanistan or elsewhere. This does not invalidate these coins; only further personal accounts, unit involvement or research are required to confirm their possible association to the correct time period.

Works Cited

  1. Special Operations Command. 3rd SFG Unit History. 2012.http://www.soc.mil/USASFC/3rd%20SFG/UnitHistory.html (accessed February 18, 2013).
  2. Bradley, Rusty MAJ (Ret.). Lions of Kandahar: The Story of a Fight Against All Odds. New York, NY: Random House, 2011.
  3. Naylor, Sean D. “The waiting game: A stronger Taliban lies low, hoping the U.S. will leave Afghanistan.”Armed Forces Journal (Military Times Newspaper), February 2006.
  4. Special Forces Association. “U.S. Special Forces Across the Globe.” Offical Special Forces 60th Anniversary Yearbook (FX Publishing Group), 2012.
  5. Special Forces Command. 3rd SFG (A) Flash. 2012. http://www.soc.mil/USASFC/3rd%20SFG/flash.html(accessed February 19, 2013).
  6. Special Forces Association. “The Special Forces Insignia.” Offical Special Forces 60th Anniversary Yearbook (FX Publishing Group), 2012.
  7. Bolduc, Donald C. Organizing Counterinsurgency Operations in Afghanistan. Small Wars Journal, Chicago: Small Wars Foundation, 2009, 11.
  8. McCollester, Darren. “US Special Forces And ANA Hunt Anti-coalition Forces.” Getty Images News(Getty Images), April 2004.

Coordination provided by MAJ Allison Aguilar, U.S. Army Special Forces Command (Airborne) Public Affairs