‘Nothing is More Important Than Taking Care of Soldiers’

Soldier poses with a donation sign

Alexandra Shea | Fort Jackson Public Affairs Office | March 4, 2022

The 2022 Army Emergency Relief Campaign kickoff began at Fort Jackson’s Century Lanes Bowling Center March 4. Attendees were treated to pizza, snacks, soft drinks and a chance of winning the traveling bowling pin trophy.

The annual campaign is the Army’s only nonprofit organization designed to provide financial relief and educational grants to active duty and retired service members.

“Nothing is more important than taking care of Soldiers and their Families,” said Charles Durr, Chief of Assistance, Headquarters Army Emergency Relief and guest speaker. “Your attendance here this afternoon is a clear demonstration of your support for America’s Army.”

Soldiers and civilians from across Fort Jackson filled the bowling alley not just to enjoy a game, but to learn the many ways AER can help Soldiers and their Families survive and recover from financial crisis.

“AER is dedicated to helping Soldiers and their Families avoid unnecessary high interest financial drawbacks by providing zero interest loans, grants and educational scholarships,” Durr said. “Asking for help is a sign of strength and not a sign of weakness.”

“Loans are one of the biggest challenges Soldiers are having problems with,” said Post Command Sgt. Maj. Philson Tavernier. “Sometimes Soldiers are too embarrassed to talk to their chains of command and are going to predatory lenders outside the gate.”

Some off-installation lenders, such as short term or payday loans, offer loans with interest rates as high as 700 percent. Loans like this can leave service members in a continuous cycle of debt that can cost thousands of dollars in interest alone.

“Ninety cents of every dollar goes right back to Soldiers,” Durr said. “That is the highest rate of any nonprofit in the United States.”

Durr said in 2021 Fort Jackson provided $684,000 in financial assistance to Soldiers, their Family members and retired Soldiers. Fort Jackson raised over $165,000 for the campaign alone. About $18,000 of that total was raised through one-time donations while checking out at Exchange facilities. Fort Jackson also won first place for overall AER donations in the large installation category.

He also said that 104 Fort Jackson Family members received a total of $412,000 in scholarships through the AER’s Maj. Gen. James Ursano Scholarship Program for Military Children and the Mrs. Patty Shinseki Spouse Scholarship Program to pursue and complete undergraduate degrees.

“I ask you to talk to your Soldiers and make sure they understand that AER is Soldiers taking care of Soldiers,” Tavernier said. “Reach out to those in your formations and community and talk about AER. Talk about what it does, the benefits and the importance of AER.”

AER is available for zero interest loans, grants and hybrid loan and grants called “graons” in addition to educational scholarships. These resources are available to active duty Soldiers, their Family members, retirees, and surviving Family members of fallen Soldiers.

More information about the AER program is available through Fort Jackson’s Army Community Services Office located at 9810 Lee Road and can be reached at 751-5256. Those wishing to donate can contact the AER Office, contact their unit or office AER representative or through one time donations at Exchange facilities.

“I know I am the last thing standing between you and this bowling tournament,” Tavanier said in closing before throwing the first ball down the lane. “Get the information out there, now let’s get going.”