10th Mountain Division Soldiers support AER campaign

Michael Strasser | Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs | Feb. 22, 2024

FORT DRUM, N.Y. — Army Emergency Relief has been helping the Army take care of its own since 1942, with a legacy of supporting Soldiers and Families during times of crisis.

Since its inception, AER has provided roughly $2 billion in assistance to 4 million service members through no-interest loans and grants.

Soldiers across the 10th Mountain Division (LI) attended the Fort Drum Army Emergency Relief campaign kickoff Feb. 21 to learn more about what they can do as unit representatives to spread that message.

Michael Ferguson, Fort Drum AER officer, led the training session to review ways of communicating the program to Soldiers and how to make donations to the campaign.

He said in 2023, more than 1,100 AER cases were processed at Fort Drum, amounting to $1.3 million in aid.

“The program is very healthy, and it will be around long after I’m gone and long after you’re gone,” Ferguson said. “But your assistance promoting the program today will go towards helping Soldiers tomorrow and long after that.”

The most common categories of assistance include personal vehicle repairs, emergency travel, funeral expenses and leave under emergency conditions. Ferguson said AER can also support newly married Soldiers with housing and utilities costs until their basic housing allowance (BAH) is adjusted.

“Another topic I like to discuss is AER scholarships,” he said. “I’m a retired Soldier, I never used AER directly, but I can’t say that AER never helped me because they literally helped my five daughters establish their undergraduate degrees.”

Ferguson also highlighted how AER is available to Soldiers after business hours and on holidays through the American Red Cross.

Anna Ostrander, Fort Drum AER assistant officer, said the campaign goal is twofold – to educate every Soldier on post about AER and then provide them with an opportunity to contribute toward the goal of $125,000 by the end of May.

“One of the biggest messages we promote about AER is that Soldiers should come see us first before exploring other financial options,” she said. “There’s a stigma around asking for help. We’ve seen that especially with some NCOs who don’t want to appear like they need help when they’re in a position where they help others.”

Capt. Jon Toyne, with Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 10th Mountain Division Artillery, serves as the 10th Mountain Division’s senior AER coordinator.

“My job is to help guide, mentor, and work with brigade- and battalion-level representatives to keep track of donations, and then provide weekly updates to senior leaders about our progress across the division,” he said.

In previous command positions, Toyne assisted Soldiers with securing AER grants and loans while emphasizing the importance of the program to his formations.

“I’ve seen the support it provides in times of need,” he said. “So, for me, this is probably one of the best programs there is in terms of helping Soldiers. It might be a grant or a loan, or sometimes both, but it’s an interest-free way to take care of Soldiers that are in very constrained financial situations. They are able to address problems without having to worry about a huge debt hanging over their heads.”

Toyne said that when Soldiers contribute to AER it is like they are insuring their own futures.

“When we pay insurance, we don’t think about what we are going to need it for until something happens,” he said. “That’s another way to look at AER. We contribute now to help other Soldiers in need, and it will be there for us if we should ever need it.”

Col. Matthew Myer, Fort Drum garrison commander, said unit representatives have an important but difficult task ahead of them.

“It’s not an easy job,” he said. “There’s going to be people who won’t want to hear what you have to say, but we need you to exercise that influence you have within your units. What you do is going to make a huge difference in this campaign.”

The Fort Drum AER Office is located inside the Family Resource Center, Bldg. 11042, on Mount Belvedere Boulevard. To contact an AER officer, call (315) 772-6560.

More on the 2024 AER Annual Campaign.

Michael Ferguson, Fort Drum Army Emergency Relief officer, leads a training session for unit AER representatives Feb. 21 during the AER campaign kickoff event. (Photo bv Mike Strasser, Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs)
Col. Matthew Myer, Fort Drum garrison commander, talks about the work that Army Emergency Relief unit representative will do in support of the AER campaign during a kick-off event Feb. 21 inside the Multipurpose Auditorium. (Photo bv Mike Strasser, Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs)