FORT BRAGG, N.C. - The Army does not have to reinvent the wheel.
It has long relied on a formula of raising funds for its Army Emergency Relief program.
AER has provided more than $1.2 billion in assistance to Soldiers and their Family members during emergency situations.

The formula is the annual AER campaign to gather contributions for replenishing AER funds. Army Community Service kicked off this year's campaign March 2, with an 8 a.m. breakfast at the Fort Bragg Club. The campaign is expected to run through May 15, with the theme of "Helping Maintain Army Strong."

According to its website, the AER program, is funded by contributions, repayment of interest-free loans, investment income and unsolicited contributions.

Last fiscal year, Fort Bragg's AER gave out more than $4.9 million in no-interest loans or grants to Soldiers, retirees and Families, said Lynn Olavarria, Financial Readiness Program manager, ACS. Fort Bragg's goal this year is to raise $500,000.

Funds are routinely dispensed upon a commander's referral, a measure that allows a commander or first sergeant to approve up to $1,000, payable short-term.

When expenses arise pertaining to matters such as rent or utilities, medical or dental, a vehicle or a funeral, money can be extended.

"The funds are really spread out. They aren't just for the loans," said Darla Cureton, AER campaign manager.

Funds are available to dependents of military identification card holders, whether retired or active-duty Army, as well as to the spouses of military members, said Cureton.

Loans can also be extended and may be converted to grants if repayment poses a hardship.
"We're trying to keep the Soldier from using payday lenders," Cureton said.

Known as predatory lenders, payday lenders have begun to operate online since their physical locations have been banned in North Carolina, Olavarria said. AER keeps Soldiers from having to rely on those predatory lenders who prey no Soldiers by offering high interest rates on loan repayment.

Units that want to be briefed about the AER campaign can fill out an electronic request on the Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation website at
AER was incorporated in 1942 by the secretary of war and the Army chief of staff, with the mission of helping Soldiers and their Families. Since AER's inception, it has helped more than 3.2 million Soldiers and Family members with more than $1 billion.

The AER fundraising campaign is important because it helps AER to retain its tax-exempt status by raising at least one-third of its funds through donations.

For information about contributing to the AER campaign and helping Fort Bragg reach or exceed its goal of $500,000, please visit or call 907-3415.