Soldiers helping Soldiers -- Fort Jackson launches AER campaign
March 6, 2014
FORT JACKSON, S.C. (March 6, 2014) -- "Army Emergency Relief: A Soldier's First Choice," is the theme for this year's Army Emergency Relief campaign.
The program assists Soldiers and their family members with financial needs through interest-free loans and grants.
This year's campaign runs through April 14.
The purpose of the campaign is to create a greater awareness of the benefits selecting AER to resolve short-term financial difficulties as well as to provide the opportunity for Soldiers to help their fellow Soldiers.
"When life's unfortunate events happen, there's a place where Soldiers can go to," said Eldon Mullis, deputy director for Administration/Secretary, Headquarters AER, during a campaign start luncheon at the Fort Jackson NCO Club Feb. 28. "The place has been around for 72 years; an organization that was started three months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor ... and that's Army Emergency Relief."
Since 1942, AER has helped 3.5 million Soldiers, retirees, their spouses, children and widows, Mullis said, and has distributed a total of $1.6 billion.
"Every one of those dollars given out was from donations," Mullis said. "We get no appropriated funds. We get no non-appropriated funds. Everything that we give out comes from donations. "
Armywide, AER helped 55,000 Soldiers and family members last year, he said, and distributed $74 million.
"Where do those contributions go to?" Mullis asked. "Last year, we helped 11,000 Soldiers and retirees to pay their rent or mortgage. That's not just because they're behind. We also helped Soldiers get into new houses."
AER also helped 9,000 Soldiers make car repairs and 8,000 Soldiers go on emergency leave in 2013, he said.
Last year, the Fort Jackson AER office provided more than $931,500 to 704 Soldiers and families. Worldwide, AER provided $74 million in assistance to 53,000 Soldiers and families.
"Since 9/11, almost $800 million has been distributed to Soldiers and their families in the form of interest free loans, grants and scholarships to children and spouses of active duty and retired Soldiers," said AER's director, retired Army Lt. Gen. Robert Foley. "In the last four years, nine new categories of assistance have been added, to include dependent dental care, replacement vehicles, HVAC and appliance repair, rental vehicles, relocation travel, cranial helmets and infant car seats."
Based upon the great job noncommissioned officers have done the last decade leading Soldiers in combat, AER has implemented a policy allowing sergeants and above direct access to AER assistance without going through their chain of command.
"The Army Emergency Relief fund really is about Soldiers helping Soldiers, and it gets to the core of who we are," said Brig. Gen. Bradley Becker, Fort Jackson commanding general. "Everyone here believes, 'I will never leave a fallen comrade,' and that's the core of who we are. That doesn't just apply on the battlefield. That applies all the time."
AER is placing increased emphasis on connecting with spouses this year. Recognizing that spouses make daily family financial decisions, especially when their Soldiers are deployed, tailored presentations will be made available to Family Readiness Group representatives and spouses during this year's campaign.
Soldiers needing AER financial assistance can either contact their unit chain of command or go directly to the AER office. By having reciprocal agreements in place with other military aid societies, Soldiers and families not near an Army installation can also receive AER assistance at the nearest Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps or Coast Guard installation with the respective military aid society, or from the American Red Cross call center at (877) 272-7337. Additional program information is available at www.aerhq.org or by calling Army Community Services at 751-5256.
Editor's note: Information provided by Fort Jackson Army Community Services was used in this report.