FORT STEWART, Ga. - The Army Emergency Relief announced the kickoff of the 68th annual AER Campaign, March 1. The campaign, which runs from March 1 through May 15, began at Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield with a small, early morning ceremony over donuts and coffee at the Fort Stewart Army Community Service building.

Opening remarks were given by Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield Garrison Commander Col. Kevin Milton, followed by his signing of a DA Form 4908 to officially begin the 2010 AER Campaign.

Also in attendance were Brigadier General Jeffrey Phillips, 3rd ID deputy commanding general-rear; Stewart-Hunter Garrison Command Sgt. Maj. James Ervin, along with approximately a dozen other Soldiers and civilians representing several units on post.

"The 2010 AER campaign slogan is 'Soldiers Helping Fellow Soldiers,'" said Frederick Sledge, ACS Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield AER officer.

AER is a private, nonprofit organization founded in 1942 that is dedicated solely to "Helping the Army Take Care of its Own" by providing financial assistance to Soldiers and their Families in time of emergency financial need. The program offers grants and interest free-loans to active duty and retired Soldiers, activated Reservist and their eligible Family Members.

"This program (AER) is vital to the success and livelihood of Soldiers and Families," Col. Milton said. "This is about Soldiers helping Soldiers."

The Fort Stewart/Hunter Army Airfield goal for this year's drive is 100 percent solicitation of those eligible and a monetary goal of $125,000.

Sledge noted that Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield AER provided loans and grants in excess of $3.8 million to assist 3,910 Soldiers and Families in 2009. Stewart and Hunter received $302,748.37 in contributions from the 2009 AER Campaign.

Armywide, AER provided more than $12 million to 5,600 children and spouses in education scholarships, Sledge said. Last year, 3,200 children and 1,600 spouses received scholarship money from AER.

"No other major corporation in the world takes care of its employees the way the Army does through the Army Emergency Relief program," said Staff Sgt. John B. McBride, ACS Fort Stewart AER campaign coordinator.

Active duty Soldiers interested in contributing to the AER Campaign may do so by cash, check, or allotment. U.S. Army Reserve and Army National Guard Soldiers may contribute by cash or check. For more information about AER programs and eligibility, personnel in the Fort Stewart/Hunter Army Airfield community can call ACS at 767-5058.