visit allows AER to focus on how to better “help soldiers and their families” | Article

Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Scott Wilder and retired Lt. Gen. Raymond V. Mason, director of Army Emergency Relief, pause for a photo during their three-day visit to Fort Hood, Texas, June 22.
(Photo credit: David San Miguel, Fort Hood Public Affairs)


FORT HOOD, TX- Speaking to leaders, soldiers and family members, retired Lt. Gen. Raymond V. Mason, director, Army Emergency Relief, visited the installation here not only to brief them on the latest programs and initiatives , but, “more importantly, to listen in the field so that the ARE can better assist soldiers and their families at Fort Hood.

“The EAR is really about combat readiness,” Mason said during his three-day visit, June 22-24. “If a soldier and his family are distracted by something in their life – in many cases it’s their finances – that soldier is probably not focused on his MOS (professional military specialty) training, not focused on the mission of unit, and if we send them into battle, they’re distracted, and therefore potentially a danger to themselves and their buddies to their left and right.

“We want soldiers to engage in laser-focused combat, complete their mission, and return home safely to their loved ones,” he said. “It is the success of the mission. The ARE is just a small part of that, trying to minimize that distraction.

Founded in 1942, the ARE is a private, nonprofit organization created to assist soldiers and their family members in times of financial emergency, including providing funds for rent, utilities, travel emergency, etc. It also provides emergency funds to soldiers’ orphans and surviving spouses and offers undergraduate scholarships to spouses and children of serving and retired soldiers.

Today, the ARE has helped more than 4 million soldiers and their family members with more than $2 billion in financial assistance, including $1 billion since 9/11.

Last year alone, the ARE provided $44.8 million in loans and grants to nearly 26,000 soldiers and their families.

During his visit, Mason led a whole series of focus groups, i.e. E-4s and below, mid-level NCOs, senior NCOs, company commanders and from first sergeants, including spousal lunches, office calls with senior leaders…again, just to give information, but more importantly, to listen to the field.

“We are where the rubber meets the road, the tip of the spear, Fort Hood, the home of the Phantom Corps – to their news – what are their concerns – where can we help them to help these great soldiers who serve our nation “, he said.

Mason added that one of the main concerns to come out of the visit to Fort Hood came as no surprise: rents and rent deposits.

He said that soldiers need to understand that the EAR is there to try to help them overcome this difficulty, especially when entering or exiting the PCS.

80th anniversary of the AER

Founded in 1942, AER is a private, non-profit organization created to assist soldiers and their family members in times of financial emergency.
(Photo credit: AER Graphic)


“We cannot solve all their problems. We are not a silver bullet, but we can iron out some of the hardships soldiers and military families face every day,” the general said. “It’s a two-way communication.”

Mason said car repairs and emergency travel, especially for emergency leave, are also a big concern here.

“Emergency travel is probably the most important thing we do for the soldier or their spouse,” he said. “Especially during a serious illness, or God forbid, a death in their immediate family i.e. mum, dad, brother or sister, and they need to come home, d to be there at the bedside and to comfort their family.

“PCS time is also when a lot of stress happens,” he added. “AER has a lot of PCS programs to help – that’s the kind of stuff we see at Fort Hood.”

So who is eligible?

Mason states that all active duty soldiers, army families, retired soldiers and their families, medical retirees, survivors, active guard or AGR reserve soldiers, and Reserve and National Guard soldiers if on active duty under Title 10 orders are eligible for AER.

“And we don’t care about your rank, from private to general,” he said.

“Asking for help is a sign of strength – people come into the military – hey you can do it – you can stand on your own two feet – it’s all true, but life happens,” explained mason. “Sometimes you just make a reckless decision – I’ve done a lot of that in my life – then you end up in a tough spot. We don’t want you to go to a payday lender, we want you to come to EAR. This payday lender may end up charging you 20, 40 even a 300% annual percentage rate. Ours sucks.

Throughout his tour, the general praised the leadership of the Fort Hood Army in what is called the Rapid Assistance Program. Today, approximately 65% ​​of all cases are handled by commanding officers and first sergeants at the installation level.

“He’s the best in the army,” he said. “This is where any company commander and first sergeant can approve a loan of up to $2,000 with their signature, and you guys knock it out of the park here at Fort Hood.

“It tells me soldiers want to go to their chain of command – and that’s huge,” Mason remarked. “So many problems are solved through this program, not just financial problems, but all day-to-day problems and challenges.

“I tip my hat to the company commanders and first sergeants for using it,” he said, “and to the soldiers who go into their chain of command. Nothing is more important than that.”

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