ALEXANDRIA, Va. (March 1, 2012) -- Army Emergency Relief announced the start of its annual AER Campaign, which runs from March 1 through May 15, with this year's theme of "A Strong Tradition of Soldiers Helping Soldiers."

For the last 70 years, the campaign objectives have remained the same, AER officials said: To create greater awareness of Army Emergency Relief programs and benefits; and to give Soldiers the opportunity to help their fellow Soldiers.

"The primary objective of the annual campaign is to create a greater awareness of how Army Emergency Relief helps Soldiers and their families," said AER's director, retired Lt. Gen. Robert Foley. "By promoting a better understanding of AER benefits, easy access to AER funds and the flexibility which AER officers worldwide exercise in responding to requests for financial assistance, Soldiers and families can receive well-deserved care and consideration in a time of need."

Established in response to insuring there was an agency available that could provide prompt financial assistance for Soldiers and their families during World War II, AER provides emergency financial assistance in the form of no-interest loans or grants. In addition, AER provides scholarships to children and spouses of active-duty and retired Soldiers as well as financial support to widows and wounded warriors.

Beginning in January 2012, AER added four new categories of assistance to include:

-- family member dental care
-- basic furniture needs
-- rental vehicles
-- replacement vehicles.

These additions were made to meet the changing needs of today's Soldiers and families, according to AER officials. Based upon feedback from AER officers worldwide, nine new categories have been added in the last two years.

In 2011 Army Emergency Relief provided $77.5 million in assistance to more than 64,000 Soldiers and their families. Under the streamlined Command Referral Program, company commanders and first sergeants have the authority to approve AER loans for their Soldiers up to $1,500.

AER assistance is based upon a valid need and is flexible in responding to all types of financial situations, officials said, adding that AER officers work toward "finding a way to say yes."

There is no limit on the amount of assistance that can be provided, and no limit on the number of times a Soldier may make requests for assistance.

Soldiers requiring AER assistance should contact their unit chain of command or go to their local installation AER office. Soldiers and families not near an Army installation can get AER assistance at an Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps or Coast Guard base from the Air Force Aid Society, Navy Marine Corps Relief Society, and Coast Guard Mutual Assistance respectively or from the American Red Cross call center at 877.272.7337.

Additional program information is available at or in the Army Blue Book application for smart phones.