CAMP ZAMA, Japan (March 25, 2016) -- Camp Zama's Army Community Service hosted the kickoff to the 2016 Army Emergency Relief Campaign March 18 at the Camp Zama Community Club.

According to, AER is a private nonprofit organization dedicated to helping the Army take care of "its own" during financial crises. Funds to run the program come from voluntary donations, repayment of AER interest-free loans, and investment income.

Col. William B. Johnson, commander of U.S. Army Garrison Japan, addressed in his opening remarks how the donated money is used.

"The money that we donate and put into the AER program goes into a fund that is managed and then is available to Soldiers in times of need," said Johnson. "We have been using more and more AER recently than we have in the past."

Johnson explained how Retired Army Lt. Gen. Robert Foley, director of the AER program, made changes by expanding the grants and loans, and making them readily available to the people who need it.

"Soldiers are taking better advantage of it, chain of command is utilizing it and it's actually expanding the program," he said.

Command Sgt. Maj. Rosalba Dumont-Carrion, command sergeant major of USAG Japan, said Camp Zama's AER program has already given out $28,000 to local Soldiers and Families.

She asked the audience:

"How many of you had your car break down?"

"How many of you were pretty young ... and didn't have that money, and you needed that extra help?"

"Or those of you who couldn't even stock your shelves or your refrigerators to feed your Family."

"This should show you that there's a need," said Dumont-Carrion. "I have seen people use AER multiple times and it's ok because things happen and sometimes it's out of your control.

"Here at Camp Zama we want to say yes- that if you need something, we are here to assist you."

Angela LeMaster, ACS financial and employment readiness program manager, said the program is starting off with a bang.

"We are right up around $5000 in donations already, and this year's local goal is to raise $10,000."

For more information about the AER Campaign, AER Scholarship and AER assistance, visit their website.