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Custom Challenge Coin of the Month – October 2017

1st Mission Support Command “Arrowhead” Unit Coin

At first glance, it is easy to see how this coin earned a place in our Coins of the Month. Cast in bronze, this unique commemorative coin feels cool and substantial in the hand. Its characteristic arrow shape comes from the shape 1st Mission Support Command’s shoulder insignia. This same insignia rendered in brilliant red and yellow epoxy adorns one whole face of the coin. The “watchtower” at the center of the 1st MSC’s insignia is taken from the Puerto Rico Army Reserve’s insignia, a reminder of the 1st MSC’s status as an Army Reserve unit.

The face counter presents a field, halved top to bottom with the flags of the United States of America and Puerto Rico rendered in rich color epoxy comprising the top half, and the bottom half containing the dedication, a red and yellow Vietnamese flag, the shoulder insignia of a Command Sergeant Major, and the unit’s motto: “Ready – Resilient – Relevant.” Both sides feature a finely-wrought rope border detail.

Origins of the 1st Mission Support Command

American military thinkers had considered Puerto Rico a candidate for a United States territory in the Carribean. In his seminal The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, Captain Alfred Thayer Mahan advocated for a robust navy modelled after the British fleet. Central to this strategy was the establishment of remote naval bases from which sea power could be exercised. After Spain rejected an offer of $160 million for Puerto Rico and Cuba, it seemed like Puerto Rico was dead. All that changed after the Spanish-American war. Left financially hamstringed and logistically disabled, the Spanish Empire would quickly dissolve, leaving behind several valuable holdings. The United States acquired control of Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines according the to terms of the Treaty of Paris, while the rest of the Empire was quickly swallowed by popular revolution.

The Army in Puerto Rico

Until 1952, Puerto Rico was an unincorporated organized territory under the control of the military. Mahan’s dream of a muscular United States Navy was coming true, with the island’s vast resources mostly devoted to military use. Early in the 20th century, the native Puerto Ricans earned limited rights to establish their own popularly-elected House of Representatives as well as an honorary congressional representative. Finally, in 1952, Puerto Rico was granted commonwealth status, with the citizens of Puerto Rico gaining the full protection of the United States Constitution as well as true local democratic rule.

Missions From Puerto Rico

The 1st Mission Support Command, based out of Fort Buchanan have been operating within Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands in one form or another since 1922, when the 373rd infantry was moved to San Juan and the Organized Reserve based there. They are responsible for the continued smooth operation of units located all over the Carribbean. Most recently, members of the 1st MSC have be active in Joint Guard, Noble Eagle, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.

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