JBLM kicks off 2023 AER campaign

A man in a black polo shirt talks to a Soldier in uniform whilst standing in front of an empty stage.
Pamela Sleezer | Joint Base Lewis-McChord Public Affairs Office | March 23, 2023

JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. – Joint Base Lewis-McChord is aiming for 100 percent participation from the JBLM community in this year’s Army Emergency Relief campaign.

Retired Lt. Gen. Raymond Mason, AER director, visited JBLM and provided key remarks at the campaign’s kickoff event at Carey Theater March 22. Mason stressed the importance of connecting with Soldiers across the installation and educating them on the program for it to succeed.

“Our primary mission this year is to reach 100 percent informed,” Mason said. “Not just about the program itself, but about the impact from contributing.”

The AER campaign runs annually from March 1 to May 15, but the program provides year-round support to Soldiers in financial need. At JBLM alone, Mason said on average the AER provides about $3 million in loans, $350,000 in grants and almost $400,00 in scholarships for spouses and children each year.

An official nonprofit organization of the U.S. Army, the AER operates through donations from fellow Soldiers and retirees to provide grants, interest-free loans and scholarships to promote readiness and help relieve financial distress Soldiers and their families may be experiencing. Mason said for every dollar donated, 91 cents goes to helping Soldiers.

The program was initiated in 1942, and in its early years saw an average of 70 percent of Soldiers donate to the cause. Now, Mason said that has dwindled to 5 percent.

Command Sgt. Maj. Shawn Carns, I Corps command sergeant major, encouraged JBLM leadership to engage with their Soldiers in an effort to encourage them to not only donate to the program, but so they feel comfortable asking for help.

“Open up and be authentic with them,” Carns said. “They will respond.”

Sgt. 1st Class Corey Pogue, with 593rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command, said the AER program was an incredible asset to him when he was just starting his military career in 2006 at Fort Hood, Texas.

“When I got to my first duty station and got a house and everything, and the first month or two came around, my wife and I realized I wasn’t getting paid (Basic Allowance for Housing).”

Pogue credited his leadership at that time with educating him about AER. He said AER representatives not only helped him get back on his feet financially, but they helped him create a budget for long-term success.

Now, he is an AER campaign coordinator for the 593rd ESC.

“I’m telling you guys,” Pogue said. “We need to spread the word and talk about the benefits that AER has to offer so that in the event that you might need it, it is there.”

Soldiers may donate to the AER directly through their units by requesting and completing a contribution slip, or by visiting the AER website at www.armyemergencyrelief.org.

Representatives at the brigade level of units across the installation are now being trained by Financial Readiness Program staff to better assist Soldiers with their contributions or requests for assistance.

For more on the AER Annual Campaign, go to https://www.armyemergencyrelief.org/campaign

A Soldier in uniform stands on a stage and talks.
Command Sgt. Maj. Shawn Carns, I Corps senior enlsited leader, encourages Joint Base Lewis-McChord leaders to engage with their Soldiers to not only donate to AER, but so they feel comfortable asking for help. (Photo by Amanda Kim Stairrett, Army Emergency Relief)
A woman stands behind a table as Soldiers in uniform sign papers.
Joint Base Lewis-McChord Soldiers sign in with the help of JBLM Army Community Service employees March 23, 2023, prior to the start of the AER Annual Kickoff Campaign. (Photo by Amanda Kim Stairrett, Army Emergency Relief)