Fort Huachuca kicked off the annual Army Emergency Relief campaign, which runs through May 15, to raise awareness and prepare the unit coordinators, on Tuesday at Army Community Service, or ACS.
This year’s theme is “AER: A Soldier’s First Choice.”
Since 1942, the AER program has provided emergency financial assistance to military personnel during unforeseen times of need; and has provided the opportunity for Soldiers to help fellow Soldiers.
Assistance from AER can help with emergency financial needs such as rent or utilities, vehicle repair, funeral expenses, or medical or dental expenses. College scholarships are also available to children, spouses and widows.
Key speakers who attended the kickoff include Tom Borer, deputy garrison commander; Command Sgt. Major James Ramsey, garrison command sergeant major; and Dennis Maruska, director, Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation.
In his opening remarks, Ramsey explained that in January, AER changed the policy so only those ranked specialist or below, or those who seek a command referral, require a signature from their senior official.
“You never know what tomorrow is going to bring, and it is those surprises that we don’t prepare for,” Borer said. “We can put a lot of money in the bank, we can have a savings plan, we can do everything right — and then something unexpected jumps up. Those are the things that AER is out there to help with.
“You never know when the car is going to break or when you could have a tragedy in the home. So it is very crucial that we encourage everyone to donate to this program because we never know when somebody is going to need that.”
Guest speaker Linda Reed, a full-time volunteer for the AER and ACS, said, “Unit coordinators, you are making possible the mission of AER, and Soldiers helping Soldiers; thus making the military a stronger and more cohesive entity.
“You as coordinators are key assets and tools in seeking out and finding Soldiers … and letting them know that AER is offered case-by-case and it’s not something to be afraid of.”
Those eligible to receive AER assistance include active duty Soldiers, their Family members, retirees, widows and orphans.
In an effort to make 100-percent contact with those who are eligible, Dilip Kedia, Fort Huachuca AER campaign coordinator, reminded the unit coordinators to, “Please make sure that you ask each person in your unit to contribute voluntarily. Avoid any pressure or coercion.”
The goal for 2014 is to raise $100,000, but Teresa Spencer, AER specialist with ACS, added that anything above that amount is accepted. While the official campaign runs from March 1 through May 15, funds are donated and collected throughout the year.
Each unit on Fort Huachuca has a designated AER coordinator who can assist with setting up donation allotments. Donations are also accepted on the website, www.AERHQ.org, or in person at ACS, Building 50010.
For more information, call Spencer, 533.5312, or visit www.AERHQ.org.