USAG YONGSAN--The 2017 Army Emergency Relief campaign came to a close with a special ceremony May 24, at the U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan, Army Community Services building, honoring those who were successful collecting donations from their units.
The program provides no interest or fee based loans to service members who find themselves in a financial hardship.
"AER is the Army's own emergency financial assistance organization and is dedicated to 'Helping the Army Take Care of its Own.' AER financial assistance is conducted within the Army structure by mission commanders and garrison commanders through AER Sections located at U.S. Army installations worldwide," according to the AER website.
As a highlight for this year's closing ceremony retired Army Lt. Gen. Raymond V. Mason, Director of AER visited Korea to thank the representatives who sacrificed their time during the campaign, collecting donations for the organization.
"This was a great closing ceremony for this year's campaign and success across Korea with an increase of 340% from last year," said Mason. "It's magnificent and the individual unit coordinators make that happen with the support of their leadership."
One of those units that made a big impact during this year's campaign, with more than 1,000% increase from last year, was the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan. The effort was spearheaded by 1st Sgt. Emmanuel Lawer, HHC USAG Yongsan first sergeant.
"I have been an advocate for AER for a long time, so when the tasking came down and no one else could do it, I took it upon myself," said Lawer. "You have to be passionate and go to each directorate. You can't just send an email. People will delete those. You have to go in and tell them the AER story."
As one of the successful coordinators this year, the secret to being successful is not only believing in the organization, but also experiencing the good they do.
"I have actually used AER myself and I have taken over 20 Soldiers that needed help there as well," said Lawer. "If you don't know about the program you can't be a good advocate for it. You have to know details and have personal experience to be excited about something."
For Lawer, trying to get face-to-face time with each member of the garrison staff was difficult, but he wasn't going to be deterred and made the effort to see everyone he could. The results of the headquarters company success didn't go unnoticed by the director.
"He [Lawer] is leading by example and he is standing up and saying look at me I'm committed to readiness," said Mason. "When I met him I could tell he was a passionate person and leader who cares about his Soldiers. It is a powerful commitment he has to his troops and he wants to do everything he can to help them."
The AER program is sometimes missed by Soldiers who are uninformed about exactly what it is there for, and who it is for.
"I would ask that campaign reps focus on individual awareness inside each unit and really talk to Soldiers and leaders, really explain what AER is," said Mason. "Donations are only a part of this campaign. The main purpose is to about raising awareness of what AER is and how we can help the Soldiers to the left and right of us."
Final words from the director had a simple message for those who worked so hard during the campaign.
"I hope individuals take away the essence of AER and the legacy of caring over the last 75 years of giving to the Army team," said Mason. "I feel proud and honored to serve on the AER team and to be part of it every day."