SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii – Retired Lt. Gen. Ray Mason, Director of Army Emergency Relief, and retired Staff Sgt. Major Glen Wellman, the Army’s Senior Emergency Assistance Officer, visited Hawaii last week to better understand what soldiers and families need when it comes to relief emergency.
The AER team held seven focus groups with army emergency relief workers, financial advisers, senior leaders, soldiers and family members in breakout sessions, and seven office calls with senior executives during their visit.
â(Our focus groups are) an opportunity for the local team here, from the youngest soldier to the oldest general or sergeant major to let us know if our program is meeting the needs here in Hawaii,â Mason explained. âAll of our programs, policies and categories are born from the ground up – they have been developed based on community feedback. “
Army Emergency Relief is a private, non-profit organization that provides financial assistance in over 30 categories. Through zero-interest loans, grants and scholarships, the AER ensures that no soldier faces financial hardship alone.
Since the creation of the AER, more than 4 million soldiers and their families have received more than $ 2 billion in AER support.
In fiscal 2021, 543 Soldiers and their families in Hawaii received just over $ 1 million in interest-free loans and grants.
According to Mason, the two main areas in which soldiers and families in Hawaii need help in Hawaii are rent deposit and car repair or replacement. Given Hawaii’s location, emergency travel becomes a unique cost in and of itself.
âPhysically and geographically, Hawaii is one of the most remote places in the world,â Mason said. âIt’s a long plane trip to get anywhere.
There are three ways to request Army Emergency Relief help: talk to your chain of command, visit your local Army Emergency Relief office, or call the American Red Cross.
The fastest and most efficient way to apply for financial assistance from the AER is through its Rapid Assistance program – company commanders and first sergeants have the authority to approve immediate financial assistance up to a maximum of of $ 2,000.
Soldiers don’t have to go through their chain of command, said Amy Melendez, the garrison army’s emergency relief officer.
âThe majority of soldiers can request AER assistance without their chain of command through the AER direct access program,â said Melendez. âIt’s great to have leaders invested in their soldiers and we appreciate when they encourage their soldiers to seek AER help, but we are also available without the leadership involvement which is also a huge benefit of the program. “
Any soldier, on active duty or retired, can visit their nearest AER office, located in many military installations around the world.
Soldiers who are not near an army installation can visit any military installation and request AER assistance from any military aid company. For soldiers who are not within 50 miles of a military installation, the American Red Cross is authorized to provide financial assistance on behalf of the AER.
Melendez wants soldiers and families to know that the AER is available wherever they are, and there to help them. It should be a soldier’s first choice when seeking financial advice, aid or relief. Mason accepted.
âAsking for help is a sign of strength,â Mason said. âDon’t be embarrassed, don’t be reluctant – come to AER. We will help you get through these difficult times in life.
For more information on AER, or to donate, visit https://www.armyemergencyrelief.org/.