JBSA-FORT SAM HOUSTON –
Army Emergency Relief kicked off its annual campaign March 4 at the Military and Family Readiness Center with Maj. Gen. William Roy, deputy commanding general for operations, U.S. Army North (Fifth Army), aiming his message directly at commanders and AER unit representatives.
This year's campaign theme is "Army Emergency Relief - A Soldiers First Choice."
The purpose of the campaign is to create a greater awareness of how AER can resolve short-term financial difficulties as well as provide an opportunity for Soldiers to help their fellow Soldiers.
"We need to emphasize how this program has immediate impact on those of us who are in need," Roy said.
"Talk with your troops about why this is important. Don't just hand out the contribution forms and say 'You should contribute, this is important.' Talk about why it's important."
Retired Col. Guy Shields, director of communications and public affairs for AER, spoke to the audience about a trend toward reduced requests for assistance that seems to happen during periods of troop reductions.
Shields reiterated that deciding to ask for help is what almost everyone who seeks assistance describes as the hardest part of the entire process. He encouraged leaders to help their Soldiers get over the negative stigma of asking for help.
The AER campaign continues through June 30. Last year, local contributions to AER totaled about $208,000, while AER distributed more than $1.8 million in zero-interest loans and grants back into the local Army community.
"Since 9/11, almost $800 million has been distributed to Soldiers and their families in the form of interest-free loans, grants and scholarships to children and spouses of active-duty and retired Soldiers," said AER's director, retired Lt. Gen. Robert Foley.
"In the last four years, nine new categories of assistance have been added to include dependent dental care, replacement vehicles, heating, ventilation and air-conditioning and appliance repair, rental vehicles, relocation travel, cranial helmets and infant car seats."
AER provides an average of $74 million in assistance to about 53,000 Soldiers and family members annually.
All service members and their dependents are eligible to request assistance from the Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston AER office or by speaking to their commander or first sergeant.
Soldiers needing AER financial assistance can contact their unit chain of command or go directly to their local AER office.
Soldiers and families not near an Army installation can also receive AER assistance at the nearest Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps or Coast Guard installation with the respective military aid society, or from the American Red Cross call center at 877-272-7337.
Contributions can be also be made the AER website at http://www.aerhq.org. For more information, call 221-1612.