Garrison Command Sgt. Maj. Cesar Duran signs the ceremonial donation check of $137,206 to the Army Emergency Relief July 21. Of that total, about $78,000 was generated through payroll deducted donations and the remaining fund generated through individual donations offered through payment kiosks located at the Shoppettes and The Exchange. (Photo Credit: Alexandra Shea)

AER a ‘winning’ success at Fort Jackson

By Alexandra Shea, Fort Jackson Public Affairs

The annual Army Emergency Relief campaign has ended and Fort Jackson leads the way on providing funds for Soldiers, retirees and their Family members in their time of need.

AER is the only official nonprofit of the Army and prides itself as “Soldiers helping Soldiers since 1942” by providing interest free loans and grants to help Soldiers, retirees and their Families through financially devastating events such as home fires, unexpected financial crisis and death of a family member.

Through campaign efforts, Fort Jackson raised $137,206 this year, earning Fort Jackson the title of All Army Campaign Award for Large Installations.

According to Staff Sgt. Matthew Willis, the 165th Infantry Brigade AER campaign coordinator noncommissioned officer in charge, $78,000 was generated through payroll deducted donations and the remaining fund generated through individual donations offered through payment kiosks located at the Shoppettes and The Exchange.

“When a Soldier finds themselves in need of financial assistance they can come and see us,” said Wanda Redd, Fort Jackson Army Community Service AER specialist. “We provide loans to Soldiers as grants or no interest loans. Lenders outside the gate can lend Soldiers money with 9% to 180% interest.”

High interest loans, often called predatory loans, are offered through instant cash and payday loan businesses. While they are easy to get, they sometimes become a financial burden that isn’t easily resolved and can lead to further financial crises.

“Our job is to make sure Soldiers and their Families get the help they need while maintaining a good budget and financial readiness,” Redd said.

Redd also said that Soldiers often frequent these lenders because they are embarrassed to ask for assistance through her office.

“We like to talk to them and put them at ease,” Redd explained. “Life happens and sometimes you have to ask for help.”

Though Redd is an AER specialist, her office falls within the financial readiness area offered through the ACS office. Those she works with offer a variety of in-person and remote workshop options to help Soldiers, retirees, civilians and their Family members to make sound financial decisions.

“We are not financial planners, we are financial counselors. We are here to educate,” said Angela Crosland, ACS financial counselor. “The rising costs of housing, food, commercial goods and gasoline are what are affecting our service members right now and we offer one-on-one counseling that’s excellent for individual recommendations as well as financial classes.”

ACS financial counselors offer classes for all age demographics that start with budgeting for those just joining the ranks of the Army to retirement planning and tools for those retiring or have retired from military or government service.

Couponing classes, budgeting for couples, Thrift Savings Plan, home buying, and credit building and rebuilding classes are offered for those in the middle of their military careers.

While AER is a part of the offerings of ACS, the office offers “the total package” of financial readiness and financial help.

“It feels awesome when we help Soldiers,” Redd said.”I’ve always loved being able to help people so helping a Soldier or retiree and their Family is the best feeling.”

So far this fiscal year, Fort Jackson’s AER office distributed $663,324 to Soldiers and their Families. Of that, $142,683 was provided as a grant.

For those seeking AER service or financial management classes, contact the ACS office at 751-5256. To find out about upcoming classes and events by visiting their website at