Trina Reliford, Army Emergency Relief Office, teaches a training class on AER in the Army Community Service building on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, March 1.

The annual Army Emergency Relief campaign begins March 5 and will extend through May 24. Key workers for the campaign met this week in anticipation of the campaign.

Although anyone can contribute to Army Emergency Relief, Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall AER Officer Trina Reliford said the annual campaign's motto is "Soldiers helping Soldiers."

"[AER] provides emergency financial assistance to Soldiers and their Families," she said, citing how AER funds can provide loans and grants for rent, utilities, vehicle repairs or emergency transportation resulting from the death or illness of a Family member. She said most money is dispensed as loans that must be paid back, but that on a "case by case basis," under special circumstances, grants are also sometimes extended.

"It must be an unusual, extreme hardship," Reliford stressed, but added "We try to find a way to say 'yes.'"

In addition to active duty and retired Soldiers, National Guard and Reserve members who are active under Title 10 for 30 days or more, along with qualifying Family members, are eligible for AER assistance.

AER also has reciprocal agreement with other military aid societies. This gives Soldiers and their Family members access to emergency assistance from AER through representatives from the Air Force Aid Society, Coast Guard Mutual Assistance, the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society and the American Red Cross at 908 locations around the world.

This year is the 70th anniversary of AER. It was founded in 1942 as a nonprofit organization by the secretary of War and the Army chief of staff.

"It's a nonprofit organization. It's a good program and it works," said JBM-HH Command Sgt. Maj. Necati Akpinar. "I have seen many, many people using AER loans. I've been here [on JBM-HH] for more than a year and at least two or three Soldiers a week pursue AER loans. Army-wide, more than $77.5 million was spent on 64,000 Soldiers and Family members [last year].

"If there's a Family member who is sick and [a Soldier] needs to travel, AER provides tickets. If their car breaks down and they need transportation … if they need food because their house burned down … You can name lots of ways AER helps," Akpinar said. "It really takes care of Soldiers and their Families." Akpinar said the base's AER goal this year is $125,000.

"I found out more retirees donate than active duty Soldiers. That came as a surprise to me," he said. "I think we need to educate our young Soldiers about how AER works."

"Last year we collected more than $220,000," he added. Because of that, "I predict we will exceed our goal [this year]."

Page last updated Fri March 2nd, 2012 at 00:00