FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Soldiers helping Soldiers is Army Emergency Relief's main mission and goal, and Fort Rucker made a big impact to that mission during this year's fundraising campaign.

The 2018 AER campaign season came to a close during a ceremony at the U.S. Army Aviation Museum June 5, with Fort Rucker raising more than $116,000 to help Soldiers, families and retirees in need, according to Col. Brian T. Hughes, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence chief of staff.

Through contributions from fellow Soldiers, retirees and community members, the installation was able to help provide a lifeline to those in financial need, Hughes said.

"Through the compassion of Soldiers and the Fort Rucker community here with us, this year's campaign generated over $116,000, continuing the legacy of providing emergency financial assistance to Soldiers, retired Soldiers and their families," Hughes said during the ceremony. "AER unit coordinators across Fort Rucker provided awareness training, outlined the benefits of Army Emergency Relief for all Soldiers, and they shook the trees to achieve these impressive (numbers).

"As a result of their efforts, 24 percent of Fort Rucker's end strength contributed to AER for this year's campaign," he continued. "That's an increase of more the 100 Soldiers over last year --that's a very, very impressive effort."

AER began in 1942 when it was incorporated as a private nonprofit organization with a mission to assist pilots in the Army Air Corps, but quickly expanded to helping all Soldiers who found themselves in financial need due to unforeseen circumstances, said the chief of staff.

Since it was established, AER has provided more than $1.8 billion to 3.7 million Soldiers and families. On average, the program provides more than $61 million to more than 40,000 Soldiers and families each year.

AER provides assistance through its various programs, including the Commander and First Sergeant Quick Assist Program, which allows company-level leadership the authority to approve instant financial loans of up to $2,000. Additionally, AER provides scholarships for children and spouses of active-duty Soldiers, retirees and deceased Soldiers.

"In the Fort Rucker area alone, 17 spouses and 65 dependent children are benefitting from $181,000 worth of scholarships for the 2017-2018 school year -- an increase of more than $33,000," said Hughes. "The warrior ethos states that we will never leave a fallen comrade. Our Soldiers in our community have, once again, demonstrated that commitment through their contributions to AER."

Hughes, on behalf of Maj. Gen. William K. Gayler, USAACE and Fort Rucker commanding general, and the entire USAACE command team, personally thanked Beth Gunter, AER officer; Maj. Carl E. Warren, AER campaign coordinator; Staff Sgts. Alexander Castle and Eddie Williams, AER assistant campaign coordinators; and all the AER unit coordinators for their efforts to make this year's campaign a success.

"You all have made a difference, a significant difference in the lives of Soldiers and their families, and we're deeply grateful for your continued dedication and being there for those who serve," he said.