EL PASO, Texas – For decades, Army Emergency Relief has been there like a rock, helping Soldiers and Families get through times of trouble.

Army Emergency Relief, founded in 1942, serves as the Army’s official nonprofit and helps Soldiers, retired Soldiers and Army Families get through emergencies with grants, interest-free loans and scholarships.

“I often say, ‘emergency is our middle name,’” said retired Sgt. Maj. of the Army Tony Grinston, who is now AER’s CEO.

“It is absolutely what we do,” he said.

Grinston will be visiting Fort Bliss on Wednesday, Feb. 28 and Thursday, Feb. 29 in his first installation visit since taking the helm at AER back in January.

The Army’s one-time top enlisted Soldier gave KTSM an interview over Zoom ahead of his trip to El Paso and Fort Bliss.

Grinston said AER is there to help Soldiers and Families and he wants to get the message out about what they do. For instance, AER has 30 categories in which it can provide help to soldiers and their families, things like housing and car repairs.

“Housing is No. 1,” Grinston said.

Helping Soldiers get through tough financial times is also an “upstream” way at preventing Soldier suicides, domestic violence and behavioral health issues, Grinston said.

“A lot of times, downstream, bad things will happen – mental health issues, suicide or domestic violence,” Grinston said. “We don’t look far enough to see how it started. Maybe, it started with an argument because you are in debt or are running up that credit card.

“That causes more arguments, the spouse leaves and then you can see how it starts heading down the wrong way,” Grinston continued.

“If we can take that one stressor away or make it a little easier. … My goal is to make things better, reduce suicide and reduce domestic violence,” he said.

According to the USO, as of 2021, more than 30,000 active-duty military service members and veterans who have served after 9/11 have died by suicide. That compares to about 7,000 who were killed in combat in those same 20 years, the USO said.

That translates to a four times higher suicide rate than deaths from military operations.

Grinston said during his trip to El Paso and Fort Bliss he will also be raising awareness about the organization’s fundraising drive that will last from March 1 to June (14). You can make donations of any size.

Grinston served as the Army’s top enlisted Soldier from 2019 to 2023.

One of the job’s main areas of focus is to look out for the overall health, well-being and readiness of Soldiers and Families.

So leading AER seems like the perfect second act for Grinston.

“One hundred percent. I truly love my job and love what I do,” he said. “I’m super excited every day and know I can continue to help Soldiers and Families in need.”

Grinston was stationed at Fort Bliss in 2005-06 when he attended the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy.

“We have fond memories of El Paso as a Family,” he said.

Fort Bliss also is a key installation for the Army and its mission of defending the United States and its interests, Grinston said.

He cited that it is home to multiple important units, like the 1st Armored Division, the 32nd Army Air and Missile Defense Command and USASMA.

“It is a key component for the protection of Americans,” Grinston said.