WIESBADEN, Germany - The Soldier at Fort Drum, New York was ready to take off on a winter trip with his wife and children with no snow tires because he could not afford them.
Thanks to Army Emergency Relief, the Soldier was able to receive assistance from the program and buy the tires he needed to keep his family safe, said retired Col. Eldon Mullis, deputy director for administration/secretary of AER. Fort Drum is famous for the amount of snow that falls there.
"I hope we have got a command climate here where we put our arms around the Soldiers and they know they can come to AER," Mullis said.
Mullis, after running a five-kilometer race in honor of the U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden AER campaign kickoff event March 1 at the Wiesbaden Fitness Center, delivered the event's keynote address and asked people to contribute to the program.
Since the private, nonprofit organization started 71 years ago, it has helped 3.4 million Soldiers and provided assistance to the tune of $1.4 billion, Mullis said. AER's mission is to provide emergency financial assistance to Soldiers and their families.
"Life is full of unexpected surprises," he said. "Sometimes they're good, and sometimes they're not good," Mullis said.
While most people know AER assistance is available for broken down vehicles, Mullis said, they do not always know that the money is also available for preventive maintenance such as snow tires.
It is also all available in loans at zero percent interest, Mullis said - eliminating the need for anyone to go off post for a loan.
Short-term loan establishments off post often charge between 36 to 600 percent interest, which means that a $500 loan can cost a person $125 in interest over the course of 20 days, Mullis said. "Why do that?" he asked.
AER is only made possible, however, because people donate money to the fund, Mullis said. Every donation helps.
USAG Wiesbaden Command Sgt. Maj. Sa'eed Mustafa, who gathered the garrison's command sergeants major to fill out contribution forms with him, said AER is one of the most important programs in the Army.
It is important for people to contribute so Soldiers have a place to turn when they are in need of assistance, Mustafa said.
Capt. Jennifer Glover, USAG Wiesbaden Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment commander and AER campaign coordinator, said people can contact their unit campaign coordinator to donate or contact her at mil 337-5211, civ (0611) 705-5211 or jennifer.a.glover2.mil@mail.mil.
The fund accepts checks and cash contributions, Glover said, and Soldiers may also donate via a paycheck allotment.
People can contact Leary Henry, Army Community Service financial readiness manager and AER officer, at mil 335-5402, civ (0611) 4080-402 or via email at leary.g.henry.civ@mail.mil.
The program raised $46,000 in Wiesbaden last year, Henry said, and gave out $153,000. The money raised for AER goes into one pool of money from which all the various AER programs draw, he said.
Mullis said that in the past two years, the program has added nine new categories of assistance, so it is often worth checking to see if AER can help.
The fund also pays for scholarships for dependent children and spouses, Mullis said. The average scholarship amount last year was $2,500 - money that the recipient does not have to pay back.
It is also important for people to know that military members and their spouses who are more than 50 miles away from an Army installation can receive assistance from emergency relief funds at other branches of the military, Mullis said.
If there is no military installation within 50 miles, people can also go to an American Red Cross chapter for assistance, Mullis said.
For more information about AER in general visit www.aerhq.org.
As for the race results for men, Phillip Curiel came in first, Keven Bordenave came in second and Byron Critchfield came in third. For the women, Camile Adams captured first place, Olga Elliot came in second and Kelley Jhong came in third.