YONGSAN GARRISON, Republic of Korea --United States Army Garrison Yongsan began the annual 2013 Army Emergency Relief Campaign this month. Coordinators hope to improve awareness of this valuable benefit.

"Soldiers and their families should not be disadvantaged in time of financial need because of a lack of awareness of AER's policies and programs," said Ann Mancillas, financial readiness manager and Army Emergency Relief officer. "AER is dedicated to 'Helping the Army Take Care of its Own' and provides Army leaders a valuable asset in ensuring a ready source of financial assistance to Soldiers and their families."

AER is funded by donations from organizations, and interest earned in the accounts. The program was designed to assist service members, civilians, family members and retirees with rent, food, travel, car repairs, funeral costs and medical and dental expenses.

"In the past five years, we have given out more than 1.2 million dollars in assistance," Manciallas said.

One Soldier testifies to how the program helped her with emergency travel.

"I applied and received my loan back in two days, so it is proven (to me) that this program helps Soldiers in a time of need," said Staff Sgt. Pamela Norris, supply sergeant from Headquarters and Headquarters detachment, United States Forces of Korea.

Col. Michael E. Masley, garrison commander for USAG Yongsan, set the tone for the campaign by being the first to donate this year.

"It is very important that our Soldiers understand and take advantage of this program," Masley said. "This program gives our Soldiers the assets they need to support them in a time of need."

"Many people aren't aware of or don't know about the many benefits of the AER program," Mancillas said. "It's our job to get the word out to the Army family."

According to Mancillas, in 2012 AER raised approximately $48,000 from donations and interest earned. She said this year's goal for 2013 is $75, 000 and attributes the increased amount to improved morale in the commands.

The AER campaign runs from March1 to May 15. For more information on the AER program and its benefits, visit www.aerhq.org or contact DSN 738-7505.