By Nathan Pfau, Army Flier Staff WriterFebruary 21, 2013
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (February 21, 2013) -- The program designed for Soldiers to help other Soldiers kicks off its 2013 fundraising campaign March 1.
The Army Emergency Relief program was established to ensure that the Army could provide financial assistance for Soldiers and their Families through no-interest loans and grants, as well as scholarships to children and spouses of active-duty and retired Soldiers, according to an AER news release.
"The annual campaign allows commanders the opportunity to reinforce a greater awareness of how Army Emergency Relief helps Soldiers and their Families," said retired Army Lt. Gen. Robert Foley, AER director, in the news release. "By promoting a better understanding of AER benefits as well as an appreciation for the flexibility [that] AER officers possess in responding to requests for financial assistance, Soldiers and Families can be provided the help they need."
This year, the kick-off ceremony will be at the U.S. Army Aviation Museum March 5 at 2 p.m., during which Col. Stuart J. McRae, Fort Rucker garrison commander and this year's AER campaign chairman, and other leaders will be in attendance to sign the first allotments.
"They want to show that leadership is stepping up and getting involved, and showing their support for the program," said Maj. Anthony Whittaker, Fort Rucker AER campaign coordinator. "There are other programs in the Army, but this one is specifically tailored to Soldiers and that's one reason we solicit to Soldiers and retirees."
In 2012, AER provided $76.8 million in assistance to more than 59,000 Soldiers and their Families, and Fort Rucker raised more than $115,000 during last year's campaign season.
This campaign season will also see the return of the Jail-a-thon April 18, which is an event during which people on the installation can pay to have their co-workers or even command arrested. The 6th Military Police Detachment will put out fliers about a month before the event day that will have warrant arrest forms attached that people will need to have the guilty parties arrested.
"Individuals can complete the warrant arrest form for anyone: a Soldier, a spouse or coworker that is on Fort Rucker that day," said Mimi Brooks, Fort Rucker AER officer. "On the warrant form, they will indicate the person's name, where they will be at the time of the arrest and what they are being charged with."
A suggested donation amount is determined on the rank or civilian pay grade of the individual, and for spouses it is determined by their husband or wife's rank, she added. Warrant arrest forms can be submitted up to the day of the arrest.
On the day of the event, two military police officers will track down each arrestee, read them their rights and handcuff them and escort them to the makeshift jailhouse in the post exchange parking lot where they will stand before a judge and be sentenced for their "crimes," said Brooks.
"They can plead guilty or not guilty, and the person will have two choices: they can be put into the jailhouse for the allotted time (30 minutes per donation amount), or they can post bail, which is equal to the amount paid to have them arrested," she said. "It's one of our most fun events on the installation and a lot of people like to take advantage of it."
All forms of payment must be in cash or check form, she added.
Another event that the campaign will bring is the Army Aviation Center Federal Credit Union annual golf tournament to benefit the program.
The tournament is a good chance for people to get together to play golf for a good cause, as well as have a chance to win prizes, according to Brooks.
"The tournament is hosted by Army Aviation Center Federal Credit Union, but we are there to represent AER," she said. "There will be prizes given away to the winners and anybody can register to play."
The game will be a four-man scramble and the cost to sign up is $60 per person.
During the campaign season, AER trains a representative for each unit and organization on the installation to not only garner donations, but promote awareness for the various AER programs.
"That's really [our top priority]. We really encourage units to come and brief their Soldiers on the different AER programs," said Brooks. "There are three different types of AER programs: financial assistance, commander for a loan program, and spouse and children scholarship programs, and our goal with AER is 100 percent contact with Soldiers in all the units."