FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- Fort Jackson will launch its 2011 Army Emergency Relief Annual Campaign during a ceremony at 9 a.m., Tuesday at the Joe E. Mann Center.

This year's theme for the campaign, which lasts until May 15, is "Helping to Make Soldiers and their Families ARMY STRONG."

The main purpose of the annual campaign is to bring AER mission awareness to Soldiers and to raise funds to provide emergency assistance to Soldiers and their families, said Sgt. 1st Class Diane Curley, campaign staff member.

"AER is solely dedicated to Soldiers helping Soldiers," added 1st Lt. Bertron Beard, campaign coordinator. "In the Army, we take pride in our ability to help our fellow Soldiers. After all, the Warrior Ethos states, 'I will never leave a fallen comrade.'"

Last year, Fort Jackson Soldiers and civilians donated $218,000 to the campaign, while nearly 1,000 Soldiers and family members received close to $741,465 in emergency financial assistance throughout the fiscal year.

This year's goal is "100 percent Soldier contact," said Sgt. 1st Class Nicole Simonson, campaign staff member.

"We want to ensure that every Soldier is aware of the AER program and has an opportunity to help a fellow Soldier by making a contribution," Simonson said.

"There is no limit on how much a Soldier can ask for," she said. "AER assistance will meet your emergency need."

If the emergency is valid and the requester is deemed eligible, AER financial assistance may be provided in the form of a no-interest loan, a grant, or a combination of both.

"There are many finance companies, title loan and cash-advance establishments that take advantage of service members who need financial help," Beard said. "AER can help ameliorate the situation without Soldiers resorting to options that have exorbitant fees or interest rates."

Active duty and retired Soldiers and National Guard and Army Reserve Soldiers on continuous active duty for more than 30 days (under Title 10 orders), their dependents and surviving spouses and orphans of Soldiers who died while on active duty or after they retired, can apply for AER assistance.

A person can apply for AER assistance through unit commanders, first sergeants or the local AER sections, Curley said.

Soldiers or family members not near an Army installation can apply at the nearest Aid Society (Air Force Aid Society, Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society and the Coast Guard Mutual Assistance).

If there is no military installation or aid society within 50 miles, or if emergency relief is needed after business hours, during weekends or on federal holidays, Curley said to contact the American Red Cross at 877-272-7337.

For more information, contact Beard at 751-2757, or stop by the Strom Thurmond Building, Room 120.