Third Infantry Division Commanding General Maj. Gen. Robert "Abe" Abrams and 3rd ID Division Command Sgt. Maj. Edd Watson complete their AER pledge form which shows their support for the campaign during the kickoff, Feb. 21, at Club Stewart.

FORT STEWART, Ga. - Fort Stewart community members assembled at Club Stewart, Feb. 21, to formally kick off the Army Emergency Relief campaign and raise awareness of the program's benefits. This year marks 70 years that AER has provided financial assistance to Army Families seeking support.

Deputy Directory for Finance at Army Emergency Relief, Andrew Cohen, a retired Colonel, briefly spoke about the program following his introduction by Fort Stewart's AER Officer Randy Knox.

"As the Army was building up for World War II, it was determined that no agency inside or outside the Army was around to care for the special needs of Soldiers having financial problems due to their changes in economic status," Cohen explained.

The nonprofit organization incorporated in 1942 by the Secretary of War and the Army Chief of Staff has a primary mission of helping Soldiers and their immediate Family Members.

Installation commanders are given a checkbook, instructions on how to give, and software access to manage funds disbursement.

The unique business model helps those in need by way of interest-free loans or grants according to Cohen.

"Most AER cases are for events beyond a Soldiers control," Cohen said. "We cannot pick out the time for when we get the call in the middle of the night that we need to come home."

Soldiers have used AER loans and grants to pay for emergency travel expenses and vehicle repairs to name a few. Some new categories for assistance include the purchase of furniture and appliance replacement and repair said Cohen. The validity of the need is made at the local level, proving the point of the Commander's program.

Cohen made the charge, "Go forth and take care of your Soldiers."

Last year, AER provided $77 million in assistance to over 66,000 Soldiers and their Families. Close to home, more than 3,000 Marne Soldiers received assistance totaling more than 3.3 million dollars.

Following the programs overview, Third Infantry Division's Commanding General Robert "Abe" Abrams delivered a strategy to key workers charged with raising a combined $250,000 for Stewart-Hunter.

"Make 100 percent contact and talk with your Soldiers about the benefits of the program … give them an opportunity to contribute," Gen. Abrams said. "Make the forms available … do not tire of doing good."

According to Knox, Soldiers seeking emergency relief must begin the process with their chain of command. The command referral program allows the Soldier's chain of command to complete the pre-screening process and issue an approval for a no-interest loan up to $1,500. There is no dollar limit on AER disbursements and at the time of application a determination is made if the relief will be a grant, or will need to be repaid.

"This program is about us taking care of Soldiers and we are here to do just that," Knox said prior to the start of the kickoff.

This year's campaign starts March 1 and runs until May 15. To find out more information call 912-767-5058 at Fort Stewart and 912-315-6816 at Hunter.

Page last updated Thu February 23rd, 2012 at 08:58