ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. - The annual fundraising campaign for Army Emergency Relief, the Army's own emergency financial assistance program, has begun.The theme for this year's campaign, which runs through May 15, is "A Strong Tradition of Soldiers Helping Soldiers."For the last 70 years, the campaign objectives have remained the same: "To create greater awareness of Army Emergency Relief programs and benefits; and to give Soldiers the opportunity to help their fellow Soldiers.""In 2011, APG's AER Office assisted 178 individuals with a total of $234,145," said Capt. Malikah McCormick, APG's Headquarters and Headquarters Company commander. "Roughly $67,000 of this amount was collected from our 2011 campaign."With the remainder of financial assistance coming from AER headquarters, McCormick said these numbers show how crucial the campaign is.Established to provide prompt financial assistance for Soldiers and their Families during World War 11, 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.McCormick said every tenant on post is participating to meet APG's 2012 campaign goal of $55,000."Every organization has a representative, but if you would like to donate and do not know who to contact, call HHC at 410-278-3000. We can provide contact information on your local representative, or you can donate here," said McCormick, who also serves as the AER installation campaign coordinator.Beginning in January 2012, AER added four new categories of assistance to include: family member dental care, basic furniture needs, rental vehicles and replacement vehicles. These additions were made to meet the changing needs of today's Soldiers and Families.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. 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 a request for assistance.Soldiers requiring AER assistance should contact their unit chain of command or visit 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 www.aerhq.org or in the Army Blue Book application for smart phones.