Fort Sill Army Emergency Relief Campaign Kicks Off

Soldier talks about his experiences with AER.

Monica Wood | Fort Sill Public Affairs Office | March 1, 2022

The Army Emergency Relief campaign kicked off March 1 and leaders says AER is the truest form of Soldiers helping Soldiers and their families.

The AER campaign runs through May 15. The program has been around for 80 years and has given nearly $4 billion in funds to help more than two million overcome financial hardships.

AER helps with zero-interest loans for more than 30 categories of assistance and emergency situations. Some common reasons include: one-time rent payment, car repairs, utilities, some medical payments, PCS travel and COVID assistance, as well as other unforeseen emergencies. The organization also provides education scholarships for Soldiers’ spouses and children.

“Last year, we helped 600 Soldiers and family members at Fort Sill alone. On an annual basis, more than $5 billion AER dollars just to help Soldiers and ex Soldiers’ families,” said Ken Lewis, Fort Sill Army Emergency Relief Officer and Financial Readiness Program Manager. “This program is helping Soldiers, family members, retirees, survivors, wounded warriors — we’re looking at this whole population of people. You just never know if YOU may need AER for something.”

According to Fort Sill’s Garrison Commander Col. Rhett Taylor, for every dollar that is donated, 90%, or 90 cents of every dollar, goes back to the Soldier. That has the highest return rate of any community nonprofit, he said.

“AER works in two ways. There are grants that are available, and as you know, grants don’t have to be paid back. There are also interest-free loans,” said Taylor. “It’s not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength to get help — especially if you have financial problems or need financial assistance. With any Soldier, when you have a financial problem, if you wait too long, that problem becomes larger than what it was when it initially started. So we really encourage our Soldiers to get the help early so we can tackle the problem when it’s smaller, versus when it becomes a larger problem.”

The AER campaign serves two purposes. One is to raise money through donations from Soldiers and civilians. The money is given back in zero-interest loans or grants to Soldiers when they need it. The second, or primary goal, of the campaign is to inform 100% of the Soldiers on Fort Sill of the benefit AER provides to them and ensure they know how to receive help through the organization.

Staff Sgt. Kurtis Brown, driver for the deputy commanding general, Fires Center of Excellence headquarters, said he has used the AER program twice in his military career.

“When I first came into the military, my car broke down with a transmission problem and it cost me about $2,000 for a new transmission. I didn’t have that amount of money at that time,” said Brown. “I was able to go to AER which was a different process back then, I had to go through my chain of command first, the commander had to give me authorization to get them to pay for a new transmission.”

Brown received a no-interest loan for his transmission and budget counseling with Army Community Services counselors to ensure he could pay back the loan without it causing a financial burden.

“The second time was just last year,” said Brown. “I have family in New Orleans, Louisiana. I didn’t have enough money to go down and help my family when Hurricane Ida hit New Orleans. I was there for Hurricane Katrina, and this time, I knew the devastation the storm could cause. So I had to get down there as soon as possible to help the process.”

He said the second time he didn’t have to go to his chain of command.

“The second time I used the AER program, I went straight to an AER loan officer and acquired a grant, which I did not have to pay back. The first time I got an AER loan in 2013 it was kind of embarrassing, because I was going to get help. As a man, it’s a sense of pride,” he said. “You feel like you should already have this stuff taken care of. The second time I went, I was glad that the help was there because I didn’t want to go get a loan off post which would give me a high interest rate to pay back. That’s the good thing about getting an AER loan in the military — is zero interest.”

Soldiers, retirees, and surviving family members can reach out to the Fort Sill Army Community Service office at 580-442-4916 to begin the process or determine eligibility for the emergency financial situation.

Soldiers and government civilians can contribute to the AER campaign through May 13 by filling out donation forms supplied within their units or by going online and giving at