AER team visits Hawaii to gain insight on better helping Soldiers, families
Retired Lt. Gen. Ray Mason, Army Emergency Relief director, speaks to Army spouses on Schofield Barracks, during a visit, Oct. 27. He met with several groups to include Army Emergency Relief officers, financial counselors, senior leaders, Soldiers and family members in small-group sessions. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii -- Retired Lt. Gen. Ray Mason, Army Emergency Relief director, and retired Sgt. Maj. Glen Wellman, Army Emergency Relief senior emergency assistance administrator, visited Hawaii this past week to gain a better understanding of what Soldiers and families need when it comes to emergency relief.

The AER team conducted seven focus groups with Army Emergency Relief officers, financial counselors, senior leaders, Soldiers and family members in small-group sessions, and seven office calls with senior leadership during their visit.

“(Our focus groups are) an opportunity for the local team here, from the most junior private to the most senior general or sergeant major to let us know if our program is meeting the needs here in Hawaii,” Mason explained. “All of our programs, policies and categories came from the ground up – they were developed based on feedback from the community.”

Army Emergency Relief is a private, nonprofit organization that provides financial assistance in over 30 categories. Through zero-interest loans, grants, and educational scholarships, AER ensures no Soldier faces financial hardship on their own.

Since AER's founding, more than 4 million Soldiers and families have received more than $2 billion in support from AER.

In fiscal year 2021, 543 Soldiers and their families in Hawaii received just over $1 million in no-interest loans and grants.

According to Mason, the top two areas Soldiers and families in Hawaii need assistance with in Hawaii are rent deposit and car repairs or replacement. Taking Hawaii’s location into consideration, emergency travel becomes a unique cost in itself.

“Physically and geographically, Hawaii is one of the most remote places in the world,” Mason said. “It’s a long plane trip to get anywhere.”

There are three ways to request help from Army Emergency Relief – talk to your chain of command, visit your local Army Emergency Relief Office, or call the American Red Cross.

The fastest and most effective way to request financial assistance from AER is through its Quick Assist program – company commanders and first sergeants have the power to approve immediate financial assistance up to $2,000.

Soldiers don’t have to go through their chain of command though explained Amy Melendez, the garrison’s Army Emergency Relief officer.

“The majority of Soldiers can seek AER assistance without their chain of command through the AER Direct Access program,” Melendez said. “It's great to have leaders invested in their Soldiers and we appreciate when they encourage their Soldiers to seek AER assistance, but we are also available without leadership's involvement, which is also a huge benefit of the program.”

Any Soldier, active duty or retired, can visit their nearest AER office, which are located at many Army installations around the world

Soldiers who aren’t near an Army installation can visit any military installation and request AER assistance from any military aid society. For Soldiers who aren’t within 50 miles of a military installation, the American Red Cross is authorized to provide financial assistance on behalf of AER.

Melendez wants Soldiers and families to know AER is available wherever they are, and here to help. It should be a Soldier’s first choice when seeking financial guidance, assistance or relief. Mason agreed.

“Asking for help is a sign of strength,” Mason said. “Don’t be embarrassed, don’t be reluctant – come to AER. We’re going to help you get through those tough spots in life.”

For more information about AER, or to donate, visit https://www.armyemergencyrelief.org/.