Kimberly Hackbarth | National Training Center and Fort Irwin | July 12, 2022
FORT IRWIN, Calif. – For Army Emergency Relief’s 80th anniversary, Fort Irwin and National Training Center set out to raise $80,000 during the 2022 campaign and surpassed that to raise $98,026.
Fort Irwin’s AER office recognized the installation’s contributions July 12, during a town hall event at Sandy Basin Community Center.
AER is a nonprofit organization that provides zero-interest loans and educational scholarships to active duty Soldiers and their family members, and retires.
Mary Duncan-Bell, the AER officer for Fort Irwin, ensures campaign coordinators and unit representatives have the information needed to speak with their commands and units about AER programs and services.
“AER has been housed within the Army structure for 80 years and counting to help take care of its own,” said Duncan-Bell. “AER is important and here to be the first choice to our Soldiers, active and retired, and families including our widows and orphans, so they don’t have to resort to outside lenders with high interest rates for those emergency situations that AER can be of assistance.”
AER gives out far more than it collects, according to Capt. Ian James, the AER campaign post coordinator and public health nurse with Weed Army Community Hospital.
“Just last year [Fort Irwin AER] gave out around $400,000 dollars in interest-free loans and I think a couple scholarships,” he said. “But really the goal is just to raise as much money as we can and to encourage Soldiers to donate because it’s Soldiers helping Soldiers.”
James said he used AER early in his career and appreciates the campaign.
“I like the idea that it’s there for Soldiers to help other Soldiers,” James said. “We should always be looking out for each other.”
AER also gives out scholarships to military children and spouses.
This year, 19 NTC and Fort Irwin family members received scholarships totaling $95,000.
“It is important to apply for things such as our educational scholarships for spouses and children because it is one of the programs within AER to help lighten the financial burden of our families,” Duncan-Bell said. “This allows them to stay focused and strive toward that academic goal with less stress.”
Although the campaign solicitation window has ended, there is year-round acceptance of donations at armyemergencyrelief.org, Duncan-Bell said.
“Let’s continue to encourage that Army Emergency Relief is a first choice and not the last resort,” she said. “We are here locally to assist in any way we can.”
For more information about AER services, call 760-380-9058 or 760-380-3513.