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NEWS | March 11, 2014

AER provides aid, peace of mind to Soldiers

By Staff Sgt. Katie Gar Ward 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

The annual U.S. Army Emergency Relief campaign is scheduled to run from March 1 through May 15, to educate Soldiers of AER's financial assistance benefits and encourage helping others in need.

According to AER, since 9/11, the campaign distributed approximately $800 million to Soldiers and families in the form of grants, interest-free loans, and scholarships for children and spouses of active-duty and retired Soldiers.

At Fort Eustis alone, AER provided more than $634,000 in emergency relief in 2013, said Marlon James, Fort Eustis AER officer.

"It's a more trusted way of obtaining assistance during financial hardships," said James. "It gives Soldiers and families peace o f mind and a sense of relief. If they experience difficulties, they have somewhere to turn for help."

Previously, Soldiers seeking AER assistance had to first obtain approval through their chains of command. Established in January of this year, those ranking sergeant and above now have the ability to seek assistance without leadership approval, said James.

"[AER] is trying to give noncommissioned officers responsibility to take care of [themselves] so [they] can take care of [their] Soldiers," he said. "It reduces [their] reluctance to seek assistance, because now the chain of command isn't involved."

Part of that initiative is a result of Soldiers previously seeking outside assistance through commercial entities who may charge higher interest rates or fees, said James.

"Through AER, Soldiers can receive interest-free loans and can pay [them] back through allotments. In some cases, they may even receive a grant," said James. "There's no limit to the amount of assistance. If you currently have a loan and another emergency comes up, you can also obtain aid for that particular situation."

James encouraged AER campaign support through donations. Units can also provide a collective donation through hosting fundraising events. In addition, the Fort Eustis AER office offers the ability to host educational briefings at unit events or commanders' calls to help bring awareness to the campaign.

"If leadership shows an interest and gets Soldiers engaged, it gives them a better understanding of [AER], and they may be more inclined to donate, or even seek assistance," he said.

Recently, the campaign has evolved to include additional categories of assistance, such as replacement vehicles, automobile repairs, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning, and appliance repair, dependent dental care, relocation travel and infant car seats.

James said cases include more severe emergencies, such as Soldiers taking emergency leave or families seeking assistance to help defray costs of funerals. No matter the nature of the request, James said beneficiaries are always grateful.

"It comes down to Soldiers helping Soldiers," he said. "People who come to us leave happy because they have that financial relief."

Those wishing to donate may do so via credit card online at, or by cash or check at the Fort Eustis AER office, located at 705 Washington Blvd.

For more information, contact the Fort Eustis AER office at 878-2137.