FORT SILL, Okla. -- "Army Emergency Relief: A Soldier's First Choice," is the theme for this year's Army Emergency Relief (AER) campaign.

The program assists Soldiers and their family members with financial needs through interest-free loans and grants.

This year's campaign runs March 4 through April 14.

The campaign seeks to educate all Soldiers about the program's benefits so if they ever find themselves in difficult financial circumstances, they will know of one more avenue to help them overcome that obstacle.To help accomplish this goal, unit campaign worker training dates will occur today and Feb. 27. AER officials intend to reach all eligible people with this information.

Their contributions goal is $150,000 with 100-percent unit contact.

"AER is held annually to raise awareness of this vital program and its benefits," said Zilpa Oseguera, Fort Sill AER officer. "The campaign also provides Soldiers the opportunity to help their brothers and sisters in arms."

Everyone is invited to the AER campaign kickoff luncheon March 4 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Patriot Club. Tickets are still available at $12 each call today at 580-442-5300.

Retired Lt. Gen. Robert Foley, AER Headquarters executive director, will be the guest speaker.

Foley spoke about AER during 2013 and said the campaign raises awareness and is a first step toward providing Soldiers access to financial assistance."

"Our goal is to assist Soldiers and family members experiencing financial hardships that are the result of unexpected events such a death in the family, auto repairs, relocation, etc. This is done through AER interest-free loans or grants. In all cases the form of assistance is determined by the Soldier's individual circumstances," said Cynthia Phillips-Lewis, Army Community Service, Financial Readiness Program specialist and financial education coach.

Soldiers inquiring about AER assistance can contact their unit Command Financial NCO (CFNCO) for initial preparation of the AER required forms. Their CFNCO will then schedule an appointment with an AER caseworker. Soldiers with emergency travel requests are seen on a walk in basis.

In 2012, Army Emergency Relief provided $76.8 million to more than 59,000 Soldiers and their families. Through the Command Referral Program, company commanders and first sergeants have the authority to approve AER loans to their Soldiers up to $1,500.

In 2014, AER has implemented a new policy where all Soldiers in the ranks of E-5 and above are not required to obtain commander or first sergeant approval on routine requests. Soldiers should still visit with their CFNCOs so that they may be assisted with the preparation of all AER forms.

New AER categories of assistance have been included. These are: travel funds for relocation; repair of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning; stove or refrigerator purchases and repairs; child car seats, cranial helmets; dental expenses for family members of active duty or retired Soldiers; furniture assistance up to $4,000; vehicle replacement and rentals.

"Army Emergency Relief assistance is available to Soldiers and their families, wherever they are located, and the amount of assistance is only limited by a valid need. Soldiers and their family members requiring Army Emergency Relief assistance can contact their unit chain of command or go to their local installation AER office," she said. "We can assist Soldiers with paying utilities, vehicle repair, dependent dental care, funeral expenses and much more."

In addition to interest-free loans or grants, AER provides scholarships to children and spouses of active-duty and retired Soldiers, financial support to surviving families of deceased Soldiers, and grants to widows and wounded warriors.

The Fort Sill AER Office is at the Welcome Center, 4700 Mow-Way Road; the phone number is 580-442-4916. The office is open Mondays through Fridays from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. by appointments. All Soldiers with emergency requests such as emergency travel, home fires etc., may be seen on a walk-in basis.

For those people who don't live near Army installations, they can seek assistance at Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps or Coast Guard installations from the Air Force Aid Society, Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society or Coast Guard Mutual Assistance respectively. Another option is contacting a local chapter of the American Red Cross throughout the United States.

Full details on AER assistance programs may be found on the Internet at