SMA recognizes top garrisons for 2023 Annual Campaign performances

Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri

Amanda Kim Stairrett | Army Emergency Relief | Oct. 20, 2023

Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael R. Weimer awarded three garrisons Oct. 11 for having the highest participation rates in the third annual Army Emergency Relief active-duty competition.

He and retired Lt. Gen. Raymond V. Mason, AER director, presented awards to U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden, Germany; Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri; and Fort Sill, Oklahoma, during the Association of the U.S. Army Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington, D.C. The garrisons were categorized by active-duty Soldier populations at each installation: small with 1,000 to 2,000; medium with 2,000 to 10,000 and large with 10,000 and more.

The 1st Brigade, 11th Airborne Division, at Fort Wainwright, Alaska, was also acknowledged during the presentation for having the highest participation rate among the Army’s brigade combat teams.

The competition is based on the yearly AER Annual Campaign, which runs from March 1 to May 15, has several goals: ensure every Soldier is made fully aware of the AER assistance available to them and is offered an opportunity to donate.

This was the first top finish for Wiesbaden and Fort Sill in the competition, having unseated 2022 winners in the small and large categories, Hunter Army Airfield, Georgia, and Fort Jackson, S.C., respectively.

“I’m overwhelmed,” Briana Johnson, Wiesbaden AER officer, said about the win. “I didn’t imagine it.”

Johnson and Ken Lewis, Fort Sill, AER officer, both said their annual campaign success was attributed to support from leaders.

“Our command team supported everything we did,” Johnson said. “They geared all the other commands in the different tenant units across the Army in Wiesbaden to push out our initiative to make sure everyone knew what we were trying to do with AER.”

Lewis and his team were backed by military leaders at Fort Sill to hit up every unit and explain what the Army official nonprofit had to offer, he said. And those efforts benefited everyone.

“A lot of commanders don’t know everything that we provide,” Lewis said. “They didn’t know about some of the grant options and some of the options that they have as commanders to help the Soldiers out.”

Retired Lt. Gen. Raymond V. Mason, Army Emergency Relief director, talks about the nonprofit’s financial assistance initiatives Oct. 11 during the Association of the U.S. Army Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Kap Kim, Army Emergency Relief)

“So currently, as a company commander, I think the Quick Assist Program is great,” Ledbetter said. “Not only is it a great program, but I didn’t even know it existed before I took on this role as campaign coordinator. So I think it’ll be good to be able to utilize that for Soldiers in my company and to spread that knowledge to other commanders.”

Staff Sgt. Monique Garcia was the unit representative for the 24th Military Intelligence Battalion at Wiesbaden and said the team had confidence and motivation to succeed during the annual campaign.

“My unit specifically, they were on top of everything,” Garcia said. “They all were very forthcoming and helped me out a lot whether it was advertising or just helping with donations themselves.”

Johnson gave kudos to the unit reps for doing best they could and asking for help when they needed it. That communication with the civilian AER team was important, she added, and the unit reps came through.

For veteran AER officer Chuck Matthews, a three-peat was thrilling, but it was Fort Leonard Wood’s annual campaign — both the amount of Soldier participation and money raised — that was a success.

Other AER officers at installations across the world ask Matthews the trick to a successful annual campaign.

“There is no trick,” he said. “It’s really planning ahead of time and just hard work — reacting to the trainees and the personnel that you’re talking to and kind of make AER hit home. For them, how we help Soldiers, how them donating to AER helps their fellow Soldiers and possibly themselves in the future. And just what a good cause AER is all in general.”

Fort Sill, Oklahoma
Fort Sill, Oklahoma
Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri
Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri
USAG Wiesbaden
USAG Wiesbaden