Darla Cureton, Army Emergency Relief officer, takes a moment to sign a check for a little over $1,000.
This check will help send a Soldier home to be with a terminally-ill parent.
“We have a Soldier whose father is passing away … We (AER) are assisting him with the plane ticket to get to the father's bedside,” explained Cureton.
Fort Bragg’s AER is a branch of the Financial Readiness Program and Army Community Service, which Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation oversee.
AER has provided $1.7 billion interest-free loans, grants and scholarships to more than 3.7 million Soldiers, their Families and Retirees since 1942.
The primary sources of funding for AER are Soldier donations and investments, according to AER representatives.
In 2017, the Fort Bragg AER campaign surpassed its fundraising goal of $400,000, receiving $428,519.
Fort Bragg held its 2018 Army Emergency Relief Campaign kick-off, Jan. 25. Lt. Gen. Paul LaCamera, commanding general, XVIII ABN Corps, and Col. Kyle Reed, garrison commander, performed a ceremonial cake-cutting during the first ever Commanders’ Forum at the Family Readiness Group Center, Pope Army Air Field.
The campaign officially runs March 1 through May 15, and the this year’s theme is “There for Those Who Serve.”
The 2018 goal is also $400,000. To facilitate meeting this purpose, AER and FRP are hosting Unit Campaign Managers at training sessions during February.
The first sessions took place Friday, and the next two meetings will be on Feb. 23.
AER supports Soldiers with interest-free loans and grants or a combination of both for relief in areas such as:
Essential car repairs.
Non-receipt of pay.
Minor home repair.
Replacing a vehicle.
Dependent dental care.
Initial purchase of furniture.
Advance travel funds for a permanent change of station.
AER has altered its commander’s referral program this year; the program’s name has changed, now called the Company Commander and First Sergeant Quick Assist Program.
The amount of assistance available has increased. The program now offers financial support of $2,000.
Under this program, a Soldier-in-need’s company commander and first sergeant have the authority to alleviate their financial strife through a simple process.
A Soldier completes an application, obtains a signature from their commander or first sergeant, supplies an end of month leave earnings statement and their military identification card.
“We are wanting Soldiers to know that their company commanders and first sergeants have the authority to alleviate the financial situation they may have… it is streamlined,” said Cureton. “Pretty much in a day, we can turn around whatever the first sergeant or the commander is asking us to give a Soldier.”
This program helps Soldiers at financial risk from falling deeper into debt.
“This is in place to help deter them from using those high-cost loans off-post or on the internet, which wind up causing them to continuously renew and pay all of those fees,” said Lynn Olavarria, installation solicitation officer, program manager, Financial Readiness Program, Army Community Service.
“We want them to know what it is, what it has to offer and it’s available. It's here if you need us,” said Cureton.
Repayments for these quick access loans are no interest, span 15 months and can be set up as an allotment with Defense Finance and Accounting Services.
AER also offers scholarship programs for Army spouses and children who are pursuing undergraduate-level degrees.
Designed to help Soldiers’ spouses the Spouse Education Assistance Program helps pay for tuition, fees, books and supplies.
Scholarships for Soldiers’ children are available through the MG James Ursano Scholarship Program, which is currently accepting applications until April 2 at 3 p.m.
For additional information on the MG James Ursano Scholarship Program, visit www.aerhq.org.
This scholarship provides funds for tuition, fees, books, supplies and room and board.
“Everything that you would need for financial aid for school are the same things they are asking for … so, it is no extra work,” said Cureton.
Cureton feels that supporting Soldiers and their Families is an essential service to the Fort Bragg community.
“It increases the morale and … readiness. If the military Family feels we care about them, then they care about us,” she said.
“It alleviates financial stress on the Family. It’s just the right thing to do.”