Retired Lt. Gen. Robert F. Foley, director of Army Emergency Relief, speaks during the Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall Army Emergency Relief annual campaign fund kick-off at the community center Feb. 26. The JBM-HH Military Saves Pledge Drive immediately followed the ceremony.

Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall hosted the Army Emergency Relief annual campaign fund kick-off ceremony and the Military Saves pledge drive kick-off Feb. 26 at the community center.

The AER campaign fund drive runs March 1 through May 15. The Military Saves Week pledge drive started Feb. 25 and runs through March 2.

The guest speaker for the event was retired Army Lt. Gen. Robert F. Foley, director of AER, headquartered in Alexandria, Va. Foley is a former Military District of Washington commander and a Medal of Honor recipient for actions he undertook while serving in Vietnam.

"AER has been a way for the Army Family, and especially Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, to support Soldiers and their Families," said Col. Fern O. Sumpter, JBM-HH commander, in her welcoming remarks. "Last year, Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall supported our community in excess of $96,000 in loans and grants that were distributed to Soldiers and their Families. That is a huge accomplishment for us. This year's goal however, has increased, even in this austere financial situation. Our goal this year is to collect $125,000 and distribute just as much.

"In addition to Army Emergency Relief, there is another campaign called Military Saves that is ongoing. The financial readiness, in my opinion, always equals mission readiness. For those of us who have been in deployed units recently or even in the past, we know when the Family is well taken care of, the Soldier performs much better downrange," she said.

Sumpter also encouraged command leadership to get the word out to Soldiers and their Families about the Military Saves pledge drive and also inform troops about the benefits of AER.

Sumpter introduced the guest speaker, and mentioned highlights of his career. Foley "became the eighth director of Army Emergency Relief on Oct. 1, 2005. He is a graduate of the United States Military Academy and was commissioned an officer in the infantry. He holds a Master of Business Administration degree from Fairleigh Dickinson University and has held numerous command and staff positions throughout his 37 years of active service," Sumpter said. "He has been at the forefront of an effort to assist Soldiers and their Families by providing financial assistance in a time of need. AER, structured on a worldwide basis to meet a variety of needs, provides emergency financial aid, children and spouse scholarships, grants to wounded warriors and benefits for surviving Family members. To me, General Foley is the personification of the AER hallmark, 'helping the Army take care of its own,'" she said.

Foley stressed the importance of Army Emergency Relief providing financial assistance to Soldiers and their Families. "Ninety percent of what we do are interest-free loans, with 10 percent in grants. Over the past five years, we have provided an average of $80 million a year to Soldiers and Families. Since 9/11, more than $700 million [has been provided] to Soldiers and Families," Foley said.

"My concern is there are Soldiers and Family members who either aren't aware or are going in need because they can't get access to Army Emergency Relief," he said.

Foley said one of the [AER] programs which has increased in popularity each year since it was started in 2006, is the command referral program. "Company commanders, battery commanders and first sergeants can authorize up to $1,500 in interest-free loans. It expedites the process. The form is signed and brought over to the AER section and immediately, because you have the first sergeant or company commander signature, you get that loan right away, so it's been a great program," Foley explained.

The director stressed the importance of command leadership to encourage Soldiers to use AER as the organization of choice when financial difficulties arise. AER provides interest-free loans and grants to Soldiers in need for medical issues, emergency travel, vehicle repair and initial rent deposit.

"If, for example, a Soldier comes in and wants to have a loan, but is in financial difficulty and can't pay right away, we can defer payments. If the Soldier or Family member is having difficulty making the payments, we can convert the loan to a grant. Most Soldiers want to take a loan because they want to pay it back. They know when they pay it back, it's going to be used for their fellow Soldiers in the future. There's no limit on the amount of money, whether the need is $500 or $5,000," Foley said.

Foley's speech included examples of Soldiers and Family members who were assisted during hardships through the AER program. He spoke about payday and car title loans and why he felt some Soldiers use these high-interest loans for financial situations, encouraging the chain of command to guide Soldiers to AER, helping servicemembers avoid more financial difficulty paying off these outside types of loans.

He also spoke about the needs of wounded warriors and AER's program to help them. "We established a special access program which allows any of the 9,000 retired wounded warriors registered with the Wounded Warrior Command to make a phone call to our headquarters in the Hoffman Building in Alexandria to state a need," said Foley. "We distributed about $600,000 under this program and 80 percent of it has been grants.

"One of the things I think is important and a lot of Soldiers think because of the tight budget we're going into, that [Army Emergency Relief] is affected, but we're not," said Foley. "We're going to be able to provide the financial assistance no matter what type of financial crisis or world economy issue, we're still going to have the money [to help Soldiers and their Families]."

JBM-HH Army Community Service representatives and other financial vendors manned display tables with financial information in the community center lobby. "We're here to encourage all Soldiers to save if they're not saving [money], and if they are saving, to look at what they're doing with their finances and also possibly to increase that," said Leonard Toyer, JBM-HH ACS financial readiness officer.

"I think if Soldiers sign the pledge, they'll actually think more about spending, and be more conscious to not spend as much because of their pledge," said Lt. Col. Priscilla Smalls of Headquarters Command Battalion, U.S. Army Garrison.

"Military Saves presents [Soldiers] with a commitment to do something positive with their finances," added Toyer.

Page last updated Fri March 1st, 2013 at 00:00