By Nathan Pfau, Army Flier Staff WriterJune 9, 2017
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Army Emergency Relief is designed to help Soldiers help Soldiers, and Fort Rucker did its part during this year's fundraising campaign to help Soldiers, family members and retirees in financial need.
The 2017 AER campaign season came to a close during a ceremony at the U.S. Army Aviation Museum May 31, raising more than $130,000 on Fort Rucker through contributions from Soldiers, retirees and community members.
"You should be extremely proud of yourselves for the difference that you have made to our Soldiers, to our families and to our retirees," said Col. Shannon T. Miller, Fort Rucker garrison commander and AER campaign chairperson, during the ceremony. "Your compassion to our Soldiers and the Fort Rucker community have enabled us to raise [these funds] this campaign season, but it's truly not about the money, but the impact you all have made."
This year marks the 75th anniversary of AER and last year the campaign gave out more than $61 million in assistance and scholarships, helping close to 41,000 Soldiers, according to Command Sgt. Maj. Gregory M. Chambers, Aviation Branch command sergeant major, all made possible through contributions.
In addition contributions from Soldiers, the Fort Rucker retiree population was one of the major contributors during the campaign season, representing 42 percent of contributed funds. Additionally, the Army Aviation Center Federal Credit Union raised $15,000 for the campaign through the 27th annual AACFCU Golf Tournament.
"Thank you to Bobby Michael,[AACFCU CEO], and the Army Aviation Center Federal Credit Union for being that avid supporter for all these years," said the garrison commander. "For 27 years you have helped facilitate our golf tournament and provided the benefits to our AER campaign, and I have to say your generosity is just remarkable."
Miller went on to thank the unit coordinators, as well, for a job well done throughout the campaign, stating that the campaign's success would not have been possible without their support.
"This is a direct reflection of your willingness to help take care of Soldiers," he said. "What you did during this year's campaign is absolutely phenomenal."
Chamber's experience with AER goes back to when he was a platoon sergeant, before he knew the full extent of the inner workings of the Army and what was available to Soldiers, he said. During his time as a platoon sergeant, he had a young Soldier who had a vehicle issue and didn't have the financial ability to solve his problem.
"I called up our first sergeant and said I need to find a way to help take care of him," said Chambers. "[The first sergeant] told me I needed to go to AER … and he pointed me in the right direction. We took the Soldier up there and we filled out the documentation needed, and that was my first introduction to AER.
"A great regimental commander once told me that our Soldiers deserve two things -- a paycheck and good leadership," said the Aviation Branch command sergeant major. "Leadership is probably the biggest thing that we can give our Soldiers every single day and one of the ways we can do that is to take care of our Soldiers. AER is one of those ways we can do that."
One of the major ways leaders can help their Soldiers is through the Commanders Referral Program, said Chambers. The program is designed for company commanders and first sergeants to be able to directly take care of their Soldiers on a daily basis.
"I want to personally thank the more than 1,100 Soldiers, retirees, civilians and organizations that contributed to our great AER campaign this year," said the command sergeant major. "Your efforts will not only help Fort Rucker -- you're going to help the whole Army."