AER top leaders visit Fort Bragg
Retired Lt. Gen. Raymond Mason, director for Army Emergency Relief, explains what AER is and how it can benefit Soldiers and Families during an office meeting at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, June 25. (Photo Credit: Photo by Jessica Ceballos, Special to the Paraglide) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT BRAGG, N.C. — The Army Emergency Relief program aims to help Soldiers and Families during a time of financial need, and one AER team is here to help make that happen. Retired Lt. Gen. Raymond Mason and retired Command Sgt. Maj. Charles Durr traveled to the home of the Airborne and Special Operations Forces at Fort Bragg to kick off their campaign by raising awareness about AER’s services, June 25.

Mason serves as the director and Durr serves as the chief of assistance in the AER headquarters located in Arlington, Virginia. Both are traveling to installations around the world to spread the word about AER and what it can do for Soldiers and their Families.

“The campaign is primarily about information, not about money,” Mason said. “It’s about making sure that every Soldier, and hopefully their Family members, spouse, are aware of AER and the programs and benefits thereof.”

AER is a private, nonprofit organization that aids Soldiers in need through zero-interest loans, grants, scholarships or a combination.

The AER mission is to provide funds to help Soldiers meet emergency financial situations; these emergencies are generally deemed unexpected and urgent, according to the MyArmyBenefits website.

Mason added that when Soldiers are not worried about their finances, they can focus on their primary mission and training.

“We exist to enhance the combat readiness of the Army one Soldier at a time,” Mason said.

Examples of this financial assistance include but are not limited to vehicle repair or replacement, food, rent or mortgage, utilities, medical expenses and more.

“One of the things in this information campaign is to make sure that Soldiers understand that they are not limited to what is listed on our website or within our Army regulation,” Durr said.

Soldiers can access AER benefits through two methods. They can go through their chain of command or a process called direct access.

The Soldier can contact their chain of command asking for assistance, in which they may direct the Soldier to AER for support.

The other method known as direct access has four criteria the Soldier needs to meet to qualify for the AER direct access program and bypass the chain of command. They are as follows:

·        Soldiers who have completed Advance Individual Training

·        Have one year of service

·        Have not used direct access more than twice in a 12-month period

·        Does not exhibit high-risk behavior

The Army Community Service program on Fort Bragg has an AER office, where Soldiers can visit to learn more about the direct access program. The AER office is located in the Soldier Support Center on the third floor.

For more information regarding AER and how they can help Soldiers and their Families, please visit https://www.armyemergencyrelief.org/ or call (910) 396-2507.

Editor’s note: Jessica Ceballos serves as an intern with the Fort Bragg Garrison Public Affairs Office.