During the filming of Iron Man 2, director Jon Favreau presented ‘Iron Man’ challenge coins to the troops stationed at Edwards Air Force Base. It was during the production crew’s time aboard the base that they bonded with the troops by exchanging these customized challenge coins.
Favreau and crewmembers were given battalion and squadron challenge coins by service men and women stationed on the ship. Favreau was honored by the gesture, and in return, had customized Iron Man 2 challenge coins made and handed out to the troops.
“The people at Edwards were great,” said co-producer Rockwell. “They provided everything we asked for and let us put up on the screen what their world really looks like.”
The specific scene filmed at Edwards is that which showed arms dealer Justin Hammer shopping for high-tech weapons on the black market. Favreau wanted complete authenticity for the scene, and so he had real weapons used as props. Although there were no sightings of Robert Downey Jr. on the set, troops were still thrilled to have a Hollywood film crew on-board. Whenever they had an opportunity, they would walk up to Favreau and other crew members and hand them one of their challenge coins. This began a friendship that both film crew and military service people on board the Edwards will never forget.
It was fitting that this friendship was made aboard an Air Force base. Legend has it that the origin of the challenge coin began during World War I amongst U.S. flying squadron troops. Young men from all walks of life wanted a chance to fly the never-before-used fighter planes in war. A wealthy lieutenant belonging to one of these new fighter squadrons decided to have bronze challenge coins specially made for members of his troop. As the story goes, it was one of these coins that saved one crewmember’s life.
While flying over enemy territory, German fire shot down one of the fighter pilots. The Germans captured the man and stripped him of all his belongings. However, they did not find his gold plated challenge coin tied around his neck in a leather sack. The overlooked coin would soon save his life.
Not long after he was captured, allied troops attacked the prison camp. The soldier escaped into the woods, but French troops soon captured him. They assumed that he was another German soldier in disguise. Just as he was about to get shot, the U.S. pilot pulled out his challenge coin and showed it to the captain. The captain stared down at the coin, and after studying the insignia for a few moments, he told the soldier to put away his gun. He had seen this insignia before. It was American.
When co-director Rockwell was asked about how the military service people responded to Favreau’s gesture of giving out Ironman 2 challenge coins, he emphasized that he was incredibly humbled by the unwavering kindness of the troops, and they were grateful that he not only understood, but also respect their culture and tradition.
Customized challenge coins are still used today. You can make your own coins for all kinds of events and club activities. Just as the coins helped the film crew of Iron Man 2 connect with the troops, you too can connect with new friends and colleagues through this unique token of appreciation.