DVIDS – News – Fort Campbell AER aims to raise $200,000 through annual campaign

FORT CAMPBELL, Kentucky — Army emergency funds have helped soldiers and families overcome financial hardships for 80 years, and Fort Campbell is looking to raise $200,000 to support the nonprofit’s mission during this year’s annual AER campaign.

The installation held an AER kickoff ceremony at the division’s headquarters on February 1, and the donation window for soldiers and civilians will be open from March 1 to May 13.

Interest-free loans and grants distributed through the AER help cover necessary expenses from rent and utilities to groceries and vehicle repairs, and the program also offers scholarships for educational support.

While raising funds to fund these resources is an important part of the AER campaign, making sure soldiers and families know they can access them is a top priority.

“The AER campaign is essentially about information,” said retired Lieutenant General Raymond Mason, Director of AER Headquarters. “What keeps me up at night is (the thought that) a soldier is in trouble and we don’t know about it. We need to keep sharing this information.”

Command Sergeant Major Joseph Harbour, the garrison’s senior adviser, said he has seen the impact of AER firsthand through his work with soldiers throughout the division.

“AER is a crucial lifeline when soldiers and families are needed most,” he said. “And AER’s support can mean the difference between a short-term financial setback or a long-term and costly financial commitment.”

Harbor said the facility’s AER program approved more than 1,100 requests for assistance and disbursed more than $1.9 million through loans and grants in 2021.

Because these loans and grants are interest-free, service members and families are encouraged to make AER their first choice for financial assistance.

“Fifty percent of our soldiers have taken out payday loans,” Mason said. “And the reason is the stigma that comes with finance. They don’t want anyone to know they have problems. AER’s message is: don’t go outside the gate, come to us.”

Mason said choosing AER helps soldiers avoid the high interest rates associated with payday loans and improves operational readiness.

“If they’re distracted by finances — can’t fix their car, can’t pay their rent, can’t put food on the table — they’re probably not focusing on their MOS training,” he said. “They’re not focused on their unity mission, and if we send them into battle, they’re potentially a threat to themselves and their buddies to their left and right.”

AER’s financial advisors are also dedicated to working with these soldiers so they can take care of their money and avoid future emergencies.

“That combination of helping this Soldier get out of the predicament that he’s in, and then the financial advice that follows is absolutely critical,” Mason said. “Resilience is what it’s about.”

Screaming Eagles play an important role in ensuring these services are available to their fellow Soldiers, and Mason said AER’s goal is to keep them informed of what the program is offering to encourage donations.

“As soon as you talk to a soldier about it, they will be informed and can decide whether to donate,” he said. “Our credo is ‘Leave no comrade behind.’ Most people think of that as the battlefield… but it’s true here on home station, too.”

AER has become even more valuable to Soldiers and families amid the COVID-19 pandemic, said Terrence Jones, manager of the Fort Campbell Army Community Service-Financial Readiness Program.

The AER program recently expanded its eligible expenses to cover pandemic-related costs such as transportation and distance learning support. Jones said local participation in the program has increased significantly over the past 18 months.

“I hope for more participation and support during the installation of leaders and soldiers in this campaign cycle,” Jones said in a January interview with the Fort Campbell Courier. “People need this fund for things like overdue rent, car repairs and emergency furloughs and that’s why it’s important to have this fund and for soldiers to help each other. It keeps them from leaving the post to seek those high-interest loans.”

Harbor said unit chiefs are a driving force behind the facility’s AER contributions each year and asked them to make discussing the program with their soldiers a priority.

“First we have to train our soldiers,” he said. “Use AER as a tool to support operational readiness; make AER the number one choice when soldiers need financial support… the bottom line is if we take care of our soldiers back home, our units can focus on their training and our army will be ready to fight and our nation’s wars to win.”

Soldiers and civilians can contribute to the AER from March 1 through May 13 at https://www.armyemergencyrelief.org by setting up a one-time payment or a monthly donation. Service members can also set up donations by going through their unit leaders.

For more information, call the Army Community Service-Financial Readiness Program at 270-798-5518. Services are located at 1501 William C. Lee Road.

Date of recording: 04/02/2022
Release Date: 08/02/2022 17:03
Story ID: 414300

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